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[Weekender] Driven by parents’ desire, Korea’s kids market thrives

Desks, cellphones and backpacks are essential gifts for first graders

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Published : 2017-02-17 17:02
Updated : 2017-02-17 17:02

Kim Ji-young, a mother of a 7 year-old boy in Seoul, has been busy shopping.

“My kid becomes a first grader this school year and there’s a lot to buy before he starts to attend classes,” she said, adding that she has been looking for a desk.

“I want to have a nice desk for him at home so that he can study after he gets back from school. I hope he will concentrate more on studying from now on.”

A desk is not the only thing that Kim has in mind.

A backpack, a foldable cellphone and clothes are next on her shopping list. 
Two children pose with Fila school bags (Yonhap)

But the problem is that she wants all the items to be special and unique, so her child can attend school with confidence.

Kim is one of many Korean parents with soon-to-be first graders who are fervent in making sure their children have everything they need to keep up with their studies. This desire among parents has led to the rapid growth of the children’s market here.

“This year, the average spending on five major products for the new semester -- children’s bags, shoes, clothes, stationery and furniture -- have increased by 21 percent compared to 2013,” said GMarket, a major online retailer, in a statement Friday.

To attract more customers, the online retailer is offering discounts and coupons for those purchasing the necessary items for the new semester.

There has also been fierce competition among Korean furniture companies for a bigger market share.

Along with different marketing strategies, many furniture makers have adopted the latest technologies to produce desks that allow children to study well.

Hanssem, a Korean furniture brand has been promoting its JOY Magic Desk, which can be slanted up to a maximum of 45 degrees by pressing a button. Its height can also be adjusted up to 90 centimeters to keep up with a child’s physical growth. Hanssem has also released the JOY Storage Bed, which comes with USB ports that can be used to connect lighting or charge mobile phones.

Taking into account how some children’s sedentary lifestyles have led to health issues, Casamia has also launched a motor operated height adjustable desk called FLEXI, which helps lessen the pressure on the spine when sitting for long periods.

Iloom has recently revealed two new series, Roy and Linki Plus, with similar features.

“From now on, we are planning to release genuine products that are designed and manufactured with customers’ lifestyles in mind,” said the company.

The cost of school supplies, however, have jumped tremendously over the years.

School bags that are dubbed “premium” and “luxury” cost at least 100,000 won ($87). The most expensive kind can be more than a million won, according to industry insiders.

Describing the new customer base as “golden kids,” experts say the market targeting them could grow much more.

“They could have whatever they want to through ‘eight pockets,’” said a market insider, referring to family members, including grandparents and parents’ siblings, who are willing to spend on the children.

Such consumption patterns arose due to the growing number of families in which an only child receives undivided attention and care from adults.

By Cho Chung-un (christory@heraldcorp.com) and Yim Ji-min (jiminy@heraldcorp.com)