In Korea, people who play golf not only work on their form, but also on their style.
Ever since the hubbub surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic began to die down, people have been flocking to online and offline stores to pick up golf products, especially apparel and accessories.
OKmall, a local e-commerce site, revealed last week that sales of golf items increased by 122% last month compared to the same period last year.
Sales of golf accessories such as hats and belts soared 446%, golf apparel by 148% and golf shoes by 59%. Among golf apparel, women’s apparel jumped 324%, while men’s apparel rose 130%.
Mustit, another national e-commerce mall, also said products in their golf category sold 17 times more in the first quarter than in the same period of 2021.
Golf items were in high demand from January through March as golfers prepared for the golf season, which typically begins in the spring, Mustit said in a news release. In March alone, sales increased 26 times compared to March 2021.
OKmall and Mustit figured out that the popularity likely stems from the fact that social distancing regulations were lifted, bringing more and more people outside.
It may come as a surprise that golf apparel is so sought after, given that there aren’t a huge number of golf courses in the country. According to the Korea Leisure Industry Institute (KoLe), there were 541 golf courses in Korea at the end of 2021, which is only about 1.4% of all golf courses in the world.
Seo Cheon-beom, director of KoLe, told Korea JoongAng Daily that the sudden popularity of golf in Korea has lately shifted towards younger generations, especially women in their twenties. In 2019, the typical female golfer in her 20s hit a course an average of 1.3 times per year – the number rose to 16.3 times in 2021.
According to Seo, other factors include the fact that golf is a difficult sport to master, which continually draws golfers to the course in hopes that they will perform better than before. Indoor golf, in which players play with a screen simulator, is also playing an important role as it has become more popular in Korea, making the sport more familiar to the general public and bringing it to the real courses.
Thus, despite a relatively small number of golf courses, the entry barrier to learning the sport seems to have lowered. Seo said that in 2021, for the first time ever, Korea overtook Japan in the number of golfers, with 5.64 million in Korea and 5.2 million in Japan.
Last April, CJ ENM launched a premium golf apparel brand called Basquiat Brooklyn as part of its Basquiat brand series, licensed by American neo-expressionist artist Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988). At a press conference earlier this month, Hong Seung-wan, creative director of CJ ENM, said recent trends have shown a significant increase in spending by women and young golfers in their 20s and 30s. for expensive golf apparel.
Indeed, these consumers want to avoid blending in with others and strive to establish their own sense of style, Hong said. Basquiat Brooklyn, which differs from its other golf apparel brand Basquiat Golf in that Brooklyn is produced in limited quantities and has a higher price tag, is not even sold in regular online malls or home shopping channels, to create a high-end brand image.
Basquiat Brooklyn’s T-shirts range from around 200,000 won ($154) to 300,000 won, while pants cost around 300,000 won.
“Basquiat Brooklyn is focused on vertical marketing,” an executive from CJ ENM’s commerce sector told Korea JoongAng Daily. “The brand opened a pop-up store at Hyundai Seoul [in western Seoul] and only sells its products on niche platforms, such as [domestic online retailer] Musinsa Golf.”
Other major companies have also entered the golf apparel scene, such as Samsung C&T Fashion Group’s KUHO and Shinsegae International’s Philipp Plein Golf.
KUHO first launched golf apparel in its Fall/Winter (F/W) 2021 capsule collection, but after seeing most of it sell out, the brand decided to continue dropping golf apparel and released a Spring/Summer (S/S) 2022 capsule collection in February.
Last March, Philipp Plein Golf, a subsidiary of Swiss fashion brand Philipp Plein, founded by the 44-year-old fashion designer, made its global debut in Korea. She opened her first offline store in the Gangnam branch of the Shinsegae department store in southern Seoul.
Another reason why Korea is becoming a fashion mecca for golf apparel is the way golf is perceived in Korea.
“While the United States and Europe are not as enthusiastic about wearing golf uniforms, the situation is different in countries like Korea and Japan,” Hong said.
“In Korea, golf is seen as a pastime that generally appeals to people of higher social status,” Seo said. “People want to look good in front of others, and when you hear people complaining about being tired and having sore shoulders from playing golf all the time, that’s actually a subtle way of bragging. . So when you’re playing golf, people tend to think you’ve become upwardly mobile.
“To do business, you have to look good, and to look good, people are looking for luxury designer clothes. That’s why in Korea they say, “The more expensive the golf clothes, the better they sell,” said Youn Hae-sook, a fashion critic and author of numerous books, including his latest, “Fashion Museum.”
However, this also does not directly mean that the sales volume of golf apparel is indefinitely high. In 2021, due to the pandemic, it was difficult to attract new players to the sport and to golf stores. Essentially, now that social distancing measures have been lifted, compared to 2021, golf apparel is finally seeing growth this year.
“And when we say golf apparel is in high demand among young people, especially women, it’s not just worn when they’re on the green,” Youn continued. “The younger generation is more flexible with fashion choices; they cross different types of styles. They want to stand out as individuals, which is why they choose to mix and match golf apparel even in their everyday outfits.
These can serve as fashion statements and are not necessarily donned as a full top-down ensemble. For example, Beanpole Golf, a brand of Samsung C&T Fashion Group, has styled its golf apparel for the summer season with culottes and pleated tennis skirts.
According to the National Golf Foundation (NGF), there were more than 16,000 golf courses in the United States alone at the end of 2021. That’s more golf courses nationwide than Starbucks or McDonald’s and approximately 42% of golf courses in the world.
“Golf apparel is trending in the United States as well, compared to 2020 and 2021,” Youn said. “But it’s the position that’s so different. Koreans have this tendency to show off their expensive clothes and how they practice expensive sports on social media. Likewise, golf apparel brands have begun to implement luxury brand marketing strategies – selling in small quantities at high prices.
BY SHIN MIN-HEE [[email protected]]