design:retail - February 2015 - (Page 32)

shopping with paco 032 A Korean Story PACO UNDERHILL CEO & FOUNDER ENVIROSELL T HE LOTTE WORLD MALL in Korea sits at the base of Seoul's first 100-plusstory building. Luxury retail, an adjacent amusement park, a good subway connection and a plethora of Chinese tourists have made the mall yet another epicenter for Asian shopping. Korea is a global success story. It is hard to imagine that this agricultural nation with the same GDP as Egypt in 1960 would have gone through the transformation it has in a little more than 50 years. When I lived in Seoul as an exchange student in the winter of 1972, the city was heated with small stoves burning coal/clay briquettes. The city had, with Ankara in Turkey, the worst air pollution a 20th-century city has ever known. With a midnight curfew, the city went crazy at 11 p.m. as everyone raced to make it home before the city shut down. Today, almost nothing of the city I knew in 1972 exists. More than half of all Koreans live in the Seoul metro area, making it one of the most homogenous of modern cities. Smartphone penetration and cyber-speed access is the highest in the world. In almost every way in which we calculate progress, Korea is remarkable-from average income to low infant mortality to educational test scores. The air pollution is long gone, as is even the memory of the briquettes. Samsung is the world's largest manufacturer of consumer electronics, having left Sony in the dust more than 10 years ago. Korean car manufacturers, which were laughed at 20 years ago, are producing high-quality products at fair prices that sell well everywhere. In this Confucian culture, there always has been a high priority placed on education. A family will sacrifice to send their kids to the FEBRUARY 2015 DESIGNRETAILONLINE.COM best university they can afford. Korean universities turn out good engineers and marketers. In a nation with no natural resources, its stock in trade has been intellectual capital and a capacity for hard work. I don't know a major American design firm that doesn't have tough stories about working for Korean clients. I know I do. Outside the engineering realm, Koreans now also are exporting a modern form of "Korean Kulcha," and it is sweeping across Asia. We got "Gangnam Style" on YouTube. We watched it, loved it and yet somehow did not put it in context. K-Pop is a major export to the Millennial Asian market (think *NSYNC). In 2012, K-Pop is estimated to have had $3.4 billion in sales. It is boy bands and girl bands all packaged like candy bars. It is sound, dance and light shows. What is evident to the Western eye is the sexual ambiguity of it all. Borrowing from Japanese Manga, the cutie-pie sexuality is confusing. It isn't the twerking of Miley or the cleavage of Beyoncé; it is about a synthesized vision of chaste perfection. K-Pop has a slightly older sibling, which is the Korean telenovela (or soap opera) that, like K-Pop, has seeped across Asia. Unlike "Sex and the City," these are contemporary Confucian morality plays, which play on romance and virtue, and are less challenging to the conservative social norms of modern Asia. No sex, and kissing doesn't start until the couple has known each other for at least 10 episodes, or so the legend goes. What they share are pretty women with highly developed shopping habits. The telenovelas translate and can be easily dubbed. The actors are clearly Asian and are easy to identify with. They are broadcast, downloaded and circulated on DVD at convenience stores. What is scary is how, just like "Sex and the City" in its prime, and its stars are used as icons. What seems even more important is how "the look" is being used by Korean fashion and cosmetic brands. They are giving the Western luxury brands a run for their money. Chanel, L'Oreal and Revlon have Amore Pacific and Innisfree up on their radar screens. What has made K-Pop and the telenovela phenomena work is their powerful link to social media and YouTube. In Korean culture, so many young people commute to and from work for an average of two hours a day on public transportation-for those hours, their heads are buried in their smart screens. What are they watching? Not reruns of "Friends." The dipsticks of the future of modern shopping are all out there-we just have to recognize them and pay attention. PACO UNDERHILL IS THE FOUNDER OF ENVIROSELL AND AUTHOR OF THE BOOKS "WHY WE BUY" AND "WHAT WOMEN WANT." HE SHARES HIS RETAIL AND CONSUMER INSIGHTS WITH DESIGN:RETAIL IN THIS BI-ISSUE COLUMN. Photo by PACO UNDERHILL http://www.DESIGNRETAILONLINE.COM

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of design:retail - February 2015

design:retail - February 2015
Editor’s Note
Show Talk
On Trend
We Love This!
Designer Picks
How’d They Do That?
Have You Heard?
The Digical Store
Shopping with Paco
Joseph Cheaney
Countdown to GlobalShop 2015
POP Supplier Listing

design:retail - February 2015