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Outlets in outskirts prevail; department stores shunned

Shinsegae Simon’s outlet in Yeoju. (Shinsegae)

Publication Date : 14-01-2013


A growing group of trendy shoppers buy their high-end products at premium outlets for special occasions and daily needs from fast fashion brands


Homemaker Lee Suh-young picks premium outlets on the outskirts of Seoul as her favourite shopping havens without hesitation.

“Outlets are the best for people who want high-quality or brand-name products at reasonable prices,” she said. “I try not to miss the sale seasons each year.”

Lee belongs to the growing group of trendy shoppers who buy their high-end outfits, shoes and handbags at premium outlets for special occasions and shop at “fast fashion” brands like Uniqlo for daily clothing.

During weekends, Lee often takes her three-year-old son and husband with her to the Lotte premium outlet in Paju, Gyeonggi Province. There must be many more like Lee, as the outlet’s sales are expected to have hit 300 billion won (US$281 million) last year, which would be 20 per cent higher than Lotte’s original sales target.

Despite the fact that outlet shopping requires quite a bit of walking around outdoors in the bitter cold - most malls are fashioned after the US facilities where buildings are set far apart - sales at seven outlets run by Lotte Department Store in the first eight days of this month jumped 33 per cent from a year ago. The number of visitors also surged 30 per cent on-year.

The sharp increase contrasts with the mere 7.6 per cent rise in sales of Lotte Department Stores during the season-off sale.

In total, Lotte’s outlet business is estimated to account for 10 per cent of the company’s annual department store sales, Lotte sources said.

The seasonal sales are why spendthrift customers rush to the outlet stores, hoping to find some bargains before the new season starts. The situation is different at local department stores that also are holding sales this month but cannot match the discount clips offered by the outlets.

At Lotte’s Paju outlet, there is currently a seasonal clearance sale going on for casual and high-priced fashion brands, in addition to selling athletic shoes at uniform prices. Between 40 and 50 per cent are marked off at a Coach store which opened on Sunday.

While prices are seen to be the biggest factor drawing customers to the nation’s outlet stores, another reason may be that people are simply looking to get out of the city and relax.

“In addition to the price factor, we believe our theater, restaurants, children’s facilities, sledge park and sales of agricultural goods from neighbouring farms also helped attract more customers,” said a Lotte official.

This may explain why almost half of the people who visit the outlet stores are in their mid or late 30s - people with families who are in search of places to plan outings to.

Sales at Shinsegae Simon’s outlets in Paju and Yeoju in Gyeonggi Province also rose notably this winter, according to company spokesperson Choi Kyung-hee.

“Cold weather does affect sales, but more people tend to come to buy winter clothes when it gets colder,” she said, adding that Shinsegae Simon does not share sales figures.

Shinsegae is best known for having opened the nation’s first suburban outlet, the Yeoju Premium Outlet, in 2007.

Shinsegae outlets begin their winter sales around mid-December, which usually end in early January, but this year, the off-season sale with discounts of up to 70 per cent goes on throughout January.


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