In South Korea, sunglasses experienced the sharpest decline in 2020 among eyewear categories as a direct result of travel restrictions and reduced social activities. Limited possibility for overseas travel however, benefited the local sunglasses environment, as sunglasses are items consumers tend to purchase in duty-free shops.
Locally grown premium brands such as Gentle Monster are driving purchases among younger consumers. The brand opened a special and unique concept pop-up store in 2020 named Jentle Home, which contributed to its significant share gain in the sunglasses category in 2020, through which iicombined Co Ltd consolidated its leading position.
In the retail channel, a shift to e-commerce which was necessitated by the onset of the pandemic in 2020 became habitual for South Korean consumers in 2021 as they increasingly embraced the habit of e-commerce shopping for sunglasses, which do not fall under the e-commerce ban on vision correction eyewear. E-commerce fashion malls, such as Musinsa and W Concept continue to display a wide range of sunglasses at attractive price points, often as low as KRW100,000, providing affordable options to young consumers.
Demand for sunglasses is set to experience a strong recovery from 2022 taking the category to pre-pandemic sales levels as social activities, especially international travel, are expected to resume once the country’s population is fully vaccinated. Moving forward, South Korean consumers are likely to prioritise unique designs over luxury brands as the former better epitomises personal taste when purchasing sunglasses instead of relying on advice from opticians or salespeople.
Despite growth of the e-commerce channel in 2020 and 2021, players will continue to invest in bricks-and-mortar stores as the latter will continue to offer an ideal route for brands to more closely interact with consumers. For example, iicombined Co Ltd opened its flagship Haus Dosan store in the Gangnam area to provide a space for consumers seeking a unique experience.
Although virtual try-ons are not yet a prevalent trend in South Korea, retailers are expected to increasingly adopt services involving recent technology to help customers avail themselves of a better shopping experience. For instance, Deep Eye Co Ltd, a local operator of optical store brand Lounz, introduced virtual fitting devices in its bricks and mortar stores.
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This report originates from Passport, our Sunglasses research and analysis database.
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