SEOUL, March 24 (Korea Bizwire) – A growing trend among South Korean consumers of buying semi-luxury goods is sweeping the consumer market amid the country’s prolonged economic downturn.
Despite the sluggish economy, Koreans – especially those in their 20s and 30s – are willing to spend 50,000 won ($45) for an afternoon tea at a five-star hotel, to not only enjoy the dessert but also the luxurious and fun experience of relaxing, taking pictures and uploading them on social media.
Strawberry dessert buffets, a seasonal special at luxury hotels in Seoul, are also proving popular.
“It’s not just about eating dessert, but also the relaxing time and the service that comes with it that makes it worth spending money on. Because I work hard, I think I’ve earned it,” an office worker named Im said.
Im, a 29-year-old female, regularly visits five-star hotels for their luxurious service and says she never regrets her spending patterns as she believes she’s getting her money’s worth.
Another female office worker, Choi, finds happiness in collecting niche perfumes and lipsticks from high-end cosmetic brands such as Chanel.
“Chanel bags are out of my price range but I can afford to buy ten Chanel lipsticks.
“With the recession and grim prospects of the economy, I’m just getting a taste of luxury with high-end brand lipsticks for now.”
The likes of Im and Choi are growing in the market.
“As the recession continues, two main types of spending trends are emerging, a tendency towards cost-effectiveness and another towards a little bit of self-indulgence,” one industry expert said.
Experts say the latter derives from the fact that consumers financially restrained by economic hardships want a taste of luxury within their means.
Professor Oh Se-jo at Yonsei School of Business said, “Everyone has a desire for luxury purchases.
“However, given the slow economic recovery and difficult financial circumstances South Koreans are in, consumers tend to spend on items that are not too expensive but that they can show off to others.
“Luxurious desserts, for instance, are satisfactory in that you can tell others about having them,” Professor Oh added.
Psychology professor Gwak Geum-ju at Seoul National University explains the psychology behind the fad, saying, “Younger generations are used to getting rewards for the work they’ve done.
“After growing into adults, they need something to give them an immediate sense of reward (for the effort they put into their work).”