- South Korea has a population in excess of 50 million, 83% of whom live in urban environments, and 70% of whom are aged 16–60.
- While the economy slowed in 2014, it is forecast to slightly recover to 3.0–3.5% growth in 2015. The GDP per capita was US$27,000 in 2013 and predicted to reach US$30,000 in 2016. Total consumer expenditure value on clothes is estimated at US$21.9 billion in 2013 by the national statistics office.
- Overall the apparel market has been flat in volume for several years, characterised by fierce competition in price. Apparel brands are increasingly targeting markets of high-value add and/or differentiated merchandise.
- There is limited supply chain knowledge of wool products. Local wool manufacturers keep downsizing or relocating their production lines. Raw wool imports including the China processed tops, were reported as 18.4kg in 2013.
- The traditional wool apparel market has matured recently, particularly the conventional segments of men’s suits, Women’s formal wear, and coats have been flat or declining over the past few years, whereas the new segments such as urban separates, business casual and sports/outdoor have rapidly grown in the market.
- Fashion businesses active through the internet, mobiles and TV home shopping have expanded owing to established IT/logistics management infrastructure, but traditional retail outlets of department stores are flat, less than 2% a year growth while fashion malls, supermarkets, and discount stores have shown some growth (3–10% annual growth).
- Fast fashion retailers like Uniqlo, Zara, and several local brands have increased their number of stores, and launched mega stores in the key fashion streets.
- New fashions that are gradually gaining in popularity are bespoke shops and boutiques of young, emerging designers; coveted for styles that are more discrete, well made and exclusive.
- Environmental consciousness and ethical consumption are becoming more evident in the market, and wool has a positive profile in view of its value and natural benefits. Of concern is that more blends and coarser wools will gain popularity due to their lower price and fashion trends towards casual wear.
Opportunity for wool
- The primary target in Korea is the fashion conscious 25 to 50-year-olds, who will respond to attributes of style, quality, brand positioning, and fashion influencer. Priority should be given to classic suits, separates, contemporary urban and Cool Wool for men’s and women’s apparel.
- Consumer education and trade and consumer promotion will deliver high-value in this market, as will traditional media partnerships, social media and retailer training and education.
- Depending on resource availability there is also potential growth for wool in beddings, sportswear, young casual, segment underwear and machines and detergents for apparel care.