The customers can try glasses virtually and ordering them online without  going to shop.

“Quick delivery service online” and “untact, ontact”

How we shop and what we buy has changed. Korea’s robust e-commerce network was already well-positioned before the pandemic, but the number of companies offering same-day or next-day home delivery has shot up over the last few months. Koean people shop even more online now. The idea of “untact” —meaning “no contact” — or “ontact” — adding the word “on” to emphasize that the contact takes place online — shopping has become crucial, both for consumers and retailers.

Luxury brands, Athleisure and Outdoor brands lift slumping retail sales

Sales of women’s and men’s fashion both shrank, whereas sales of international boutique brands, including Chanel, Christian Dior and Gucci, rose 5.4 percent, while foreign jewelry and watch brands, like Cartier and Bvlgari, increased 27.4. Meanwhile, the popularity of athleisure brands has been also growing steadily since the implementation of the 52-hour workweek – a trend accelerated by the virus-fueled increase in telecommuting. The sales of outdoors wear and outdoor-related items are also on the rise. The outdoor sports don’t seem to worry people much, since it’s easier to keep your distance from others and people care about their health more to fight the Covid-19 crisis.

Customers wait in line to enter the Chanel store wearing masks.

“Home is the center of life”

The biggest change in consumption trends due to Covid-19 comes from the idea that “home is the center of life.”, which goes with one of Carlin’s FW2021 trends “ADAGIO”.

In Korea, with its long working hours, inexpensive restaurants and round-the-clock education, home often really was just a place to sleep. Covid-19 completely changed that. The rapid growth of home furnishing and household appliances is currently the most pronounced change in the Covid-19 era. First-quarter sales of furniture companies Hanssem, Hyundai Livart, and IKEA all increased by 20 to 25 percent compared to the same period last year. Sales of home decor products also increased on major e-commerce sites like Coupang. Home remodeling product sales also increased 578 percent from February to June 9 compared to the same period last year.  

Another new phenomenon is the sudden popularity of six-person tables. People started to buy large tables to increase their workspace for telecommuting and online classes. People are also renewing their home appliances, especially dishwashers. Sales of dishwashers increased 516 percent at Eland and 280 percent at Lotte Hi-Mart from January to May this year.

A large crowd in front of IKEA in Korea as it opens on February 13.


Local infections are increasing again, fear of second wave emerges.

Covid-19 was slowing down in Korea. But the crisis entered a new phase with confirmed local infections increasing over the past two weeks. Since last May, it started to record around 40 to 50 new cases per day, mostly from the Seoul metropolitan area, where about half of South Korea’s 51 million people live. The country added 100 new cases on the last weekend, including about 50 local infections. The fear of second wave is raising as cases are increasing and social distancing has been eased.

Middle school students having lunch at the tables with plastic partitions.

Financial aid provided by the central government.

In early May, the central government distributed coronavirus relief funds to everyone in the country in the hopes it would boost consumption and help local businesses. The central government also has executed 11.7 trillion won worth of supplementary budget to subsidize small businesses’ labor costs to help employees keep their jobs. In addition, Unemployment benefits paid from March to June hit an all-time high as jobs shrink due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Advertising poster for the special discount event organized by the central government.

Special discount event organized by the central government.

The central government has organized a special discount event of a grand scale to boost the domestic market. The major sales events to help small businesses will be held for two weeks between June 26 through July 12. It will ease the difficulties of SME retailers, SME companies and small businesses that have been directly hit by the coronavirus crisis. Korea’s major companies, department stores, traditional markets, duty-free shops, online shopping malls will participate in this grand sale.


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