Less than a decade ago, Halloween was nothing more than a fancy-dress party known to Koreans through Hollywood movies.
Now, it’s common to see people here donning masks and capes and stores promote Halloween-themed treats throughout October.
The festive holiday has become a marketing dream here and everyone is keen to get their share.
Models present various Halloween-themed products at Lotte Mart in Guro, Seoul. (Lotte Mart)
Irene Park, 28, is planning to dress up as Alice from “Alice‘s Adventures in Wonderland.” She has purchased her costume at a local costume store, and is looking through zombie makeup tutorials on the internet.
“I first came across Halloween three years ago. Although the event is relatively new to me, it is something I look forward to every year. Halloween is the one day that I get to play around with costumes and makeup as much as I want,” said Park, who has never lived overseas.
Local and global businesses operating here have recently jumped on the Halloween bandwagon, cashing in on the growing market of the party industry, with sales of Halloween-related items soaring according to major retailers.
“The party culture is gradually spreading in Korea centered on those in their 20s and 30s. The demand for party goods continues to rise every year before Halloween,” said Korea‘s largest open market website G-market.
Sales of party-related products almost doubled between January and September this year, compared to the same period in 2012, according to G-market.
By item, sales of party dresses increased by 139 percent while costumes for adults and children each increased by 24 percent and 21 percent. The figure for pet dog costumes soared by 957 percent. It’s fair to say that Halloween has arrived in Korea.
This year businesses have introduced Halloween-themed products and promotions weeks before Monday, the official day of the festival.
Dunkin Donuts joined hands with Ghostbusters and unveiled a slew of ghostly donuts, cakes, muffins, cookies, lollipops, drinks and special package deals. Until Oct. 31, customers with a membership can purchase six Halloween donuts for a 15 percent discount and also save 5 percent on their membership account.
Girls’ clothing brand Roem Girls, which is owned by Korea’s leading fashion retailer Eland Group, teamed up with local TV animation Secret JuJu to unveil five dresses worn by characters of the animation, in time for Halloween. Dresses come in five colors and are sold at 49,000 won ($43) each. Secret JuJu accessories that match the dresses are also available.
The beauty industry is also getting in on the act.
Customers visiting local cosmetics brand Skin Food in Garosugil, southern Seoul, are greeted by mockup skeletons, bats, and pumpkins decorated under the theme Hello Hallo-queen.
Skin Food plans to offer selected lines of its foundation, eye shadow and lip tint that will come in handy for Halloween makeup at a 30 percent discount until Monday.
Customers with receipts from Skin Food Garosugil can also purchase Halloween menus for a 30 percent discount at a coffee shop located on the second floor of the cosmetics store.
On a more luxurious front, high-end hotel Banyan Tree Club and Spa Seoul, located in central Seoul, together with luxury party brand Listen Company, hosted a Halloween party on Oct. 22.
According to Listen Company, the Halloween party was the most successful event this year thus far, reaping twice the sales it did for its previous party held in September.
“Businesses are competing to secure a stake in Halloween, because they benefit from such ‘event marketing.’ They can increase sales and expand their consumer bases by taking part in such fun occasions.” said Suh Yong-gu, professor of marketing at Sookmyung Women’s University.
Park Sung-hee, researcher of Korea Trend Institute, said marketing opportunities for businesses will continue to diversify as the younger generation are more exposed to different cultures.
“While baby boomers grew up watching Hollywood zombie films through screens, the younger generation has more opportunities to get first-hand experience of different cultures as overseas travel and studying abroad continues to increase.”
By Kim Bo-gyung (firstname.lastname@example.org)