Premium Korea at Harrods

by Philip Gowman on 22 September, 2011

in Brand Korea | Event reports and reviews | Fashion | Retail Therapy

Premium Korea in the Harrods exhibition gallery

Posh soju and other premium Korean goods in the Harrods exhibition gallery

A high profile four-week exhibition of some of Korea’s luxury brands is just coming to an end. I can only speculate as to how much KOTRA paid to hire the Exhibition Gallery at Harrods for four weeks. But space at the UK’s premier luxury department store doesn’t come cheap, and it must have taken a significant chunk out of someone’s annual budget. What did they get for their money?

It is early days for Harrods new exhibition space – Premium Korea was only the second exhibition to be held there according to the sales staff. It was therefore difficult to predict how many people are going to be visiting.

Handbags by Couronne

Handbags by Couronne

One media website indicates that the daily average footfall of affluent customers is 42,000. But these are the numbers coming in through the front door on the ground floor, not those who make it up to the third floor next to the beds department. Based on personal experience, you need to knock a couple of 0s off that for visitors to the 360 square metre exhibition gallery. I went one Friday evening just before closing time and counted five customers there in the space of an hour1, and I wouldn’t put those in the ultra high net worth category. My wife called in at the place on a Saturday afternoon and it was similarly empty.

But while Harrods can’t guarantee footfall, they can guarantee service. Staff at the information counters on the ground floor were happy to direct you to the exhibition space, and once you got there the shopfloor sales staff were impeccable. Well-briefed, knowledgeable and enthusiastic, you could not have asked for better ambassadors for Korean products. (And they weren’t Korean).

Prospecs W shoes

The hi-tech walking shoes by Prospecs W were selling well

The real benefits of this prestigious event were never going to be measurable in monetary terms. For one thing, only a few items were actually for sale: tea, posh soju, electric juicers and high tech walking shoes were the main items that you could buy. The high end fashion, ginseng and jewellery products were only for show. You can understand why this might be the case – it’s easy to stock up on tea, but less easy to predict what sizes of a designer clothing collection might sell. In a way, this was a shame, because the sales staff told me that a lot of wealthy middle eastern women were wanting to buy Lie Sang Bong’s clothes – but all they could take away was a website address.

Lie Sang Bong clothing range

There was appetite to buy Lie Sang Bong's stylish range - but sadly it was not for sale

The walking shoes, well priced at under £100, were selling well, and the sales staff were so enthusiastic about them that they said they were going to recommend to Harrods that they should be part of their permanent product range. Similarly, the juicers were selling steadily, even at £400 a go. Their approach, of slowly pressing the fruit through a mesh, like a mechanical mouli, promised enhanced vitamin preservation compared with the typical blender which blitzes the fruit with a blade.

Sales assistant Steffan takes apart the Hurom juicer

Sales assistant Steffan takes apart the Hurom juicer

Maybe twenty years ago Korea was known for the cheapness of its products rather than their quality. Those who have been following Korea know that things have changed, and Korea’s brands such as Samsung are now much sought after. The four week showcase at Harrods has demonstrated that Korea can produce much more than consumer electronics and reliable cars: their high-end fashion and desirable luxury goods can bear comparison with some of the best in the world.

Links:

Premium Korea at Harrods runs 28 August – 24 September 2011.

  1. The photo at the top of this article was taken at 7:30pm on a Friday evening. []

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