South Korean luxury consumption expands beyond bags

South Koreans are buying wider range of luxury goods from handbags to watches, jewelry, scarves and perfumes.

Market researcher Euromonitor reported 4.6 percent growth in South Korea’s luxury market from last year, reaching an aggregate total of US$14.2 billion.

Aside from sales of luxury cosmetics, which have struggled during the pandemic era, sales of high-end perfumes have grown by 7 percent. Luxury hand creams have also seen growth.

Luxury scarves, earrings and necklaces with visible logos despite their small size, or hand creams that catch the eyes of many as they are taken out of handbags have gained exceptional popularity.

Jewelry and watches, in particular, have seen major sales growth. In Seoul’s affluent Gangnam area, Van Cleef and Arpels necklaces, priced at over 10 million won (US$8,460), are very popular.

As Chanel, Louis Vuitton and other luxury bags are losing their status of exclusivity due to mass consumption, luxury consumers are turning to jewelry and watches to compensate.

“So-called ‘small luxury’, popular since the pre-pandemic era, coupled with ‘revenge spending’ and the so-called ‘selective luxury’ to garner people’s attention through natural looks, is rising as a new trend in the luxury market,” said Hong Hee-jeong, a researcher in Euromonitor’s beauty and fashion department.

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