It’s cheaper to live in New York, Hong Kong, Copenhagen or Paris then in Seoul. But not everything is expensive, taking a cab here four blocks further costs about 2 Euros, the same distance in Copenhagen or Paris would cost a lot more. Korean food is generally cheap, so are a lot of other things. The greatest price differences can be found in western and mainly European products that are imported to this country. I decided to look for the differences, conclusion: It can be quite expensive to maintain European traditions (food/clothing style) over here, but there are great chances for European entrepreneurs!
I got to think of these differences today when I decided to buy some new clothes here in Seoul. I found an outlet of Spanish clothing brand ‘Zara’ in a department store. When I tried one of the shirts, I noticed the â‚© 49.000 price tag, with a clear view of the price in Euro behind it. This particular shirt would be 30 Euros in total when you convert the Korean price to Euro. A five-euro price increase over the European stores, for a shirt not such a big margin but I started wondering about it.
While I continued my stroll through this commercial metropolis I thought of the margin that Zara added on their product. They added their export costs and other tariffs, but possibly also a premium for being an European brand. Most marketers use western faces to promote their products in an exotic way, could the ‘exotic’ Zara outlet enjoy more popularity here, and increase their prices? Could that be the same for convenience products? That day, I ended up in a supermarket and decided to compare some products (mainly European) with the prices home.
European products in Korea, the differences
I bought some familiar European products, including 6 bottles of Heineken beer, a bottle of Casillero del Diablo wine, One liter of milk, Bertolli olive oil and One loaf of white bread, I compared them to Dutch online shopping experience Albert.nl. I also compared the price of gas since someone is borrowing his car to me here in Korea.
This shopping list includes some local and some imported European products. Probably the local products are just as cheap as at home, and all imported products have a premium on them.
Just as expected, the gas is cheaper here in Korea. But local products in the supermarket are not always cheaper. While Bread is cheaper, Milk is more expensive. (and increased 18% in price last week)
The imported products are obviously more expensive, but show big differences in margin. The wine, olive oil and Beer have probably added a premium on their prices.
Exporting to Korea
I crave for my European traditional brands and products. The differences might hold a lot of potential for European products. Korean supermarket/Mc Donalds/Candy factory Lotte bought a Belgium chocolate factory recently, and proudly sells the “Made in Belgium” products in their stores, at stations and gas stations.
It’s trendy to walk around with a shirt saying Stockholm or Paris over here. Korean fashion brand Clride.n started a whole clothing line with Swedish icons on them. Jumpers with “Sverige” and t-shirts with “Swedish pleasure” don’t work for me, but they are popular on the street.
It seems that Western and particularly West-European products SELL like crazy here in Korea. Korea has experienced the fastest economic growth in Asian history and is currently one of the richest countries in this region. This also means that their habits are getting more westernized and their choices get more exclusive. If you are a product manufacturer, it wouldn’t hurt to consider to selling your products over here for a premium price.