A Chanel employee looks at his tablet at Shinsegae Department Store in Gangnam, Seoul. (Byun Hye-jin/The Korea Herald)
Until just a couple of months ago, long lines in front of department store entries connected to Chanel were crowded with shoppers eager to grab bags priced at some 10 million won ($8,200). Some brought their own chairs for a more comfortable wait, while others set up tents to stay warm the night before.
But the desire to get hold of luxury fashion items accentuated with the signature Chanel mark, however, appears to be losing steam. It seems an “open run,” a local shopping term referring to a chaotic situation where customers rush into the stores as soon as they open, is no longer needed at Chanel boutiques in Seoul.
When The Korea Herald visited three major Seoul department stores -- Shinsegae Department Store in Gangnam, Hyundai Department Store in Apgujeong and the Avenuel World Tower branch of Lotte Department Store in Jamsil -- between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. on Tuesday, it was hard to find people lining up for Chanel.
A couple stand in line in front of the Chanel boutique at Hyundai Department Store in Apgujeong, Seoul. (Byun Hye-jin/The Korea Herald)
Gwon Se-yong, a Seoulite in his 60s, said he waited just five minutes to enter the Chanel boutique at Apgujeong Hyundai Department Store with his wife.
“Last year, it was almost impossible to step foot into a Chanel store with all the waiting hours. I was surprised to get in so soon today,” Gwon said. “I’m glad I can finally buy my wife a Chanel bag.”
Despite the shortened waiting times, more customers seem hesitant to purchase the long-awaited Chanel bags.
Kim Na-yeon, a Seoulite in her 20s, came out empty-handed after visiting the Chanel boutique at Avenuel World Tower, saying she had mixed feelings about making a purchase.
“I’ve waited so long to buy a Chanel Coco Handle bag and I’ll probably buy it. However, I see so many women holding a Chanel wherever I go, so I think I’m becoming a bit cautious before spending a huge sum of money to buy something so common,” Kim said.
Lee Sung-eun, a 33-year-old teacher who recently visited the Chanel shop at Avenuel World Tower, said she too is having second thoughts about purchasing her dream bag -- Chanel 2.55, designed by Coco Chanel.
“I even opened up a savings account to buy the Chanel bag. But now, when I picture Chanel, all I can think of is people waiting endlessly in streets and frantically racing into the store. I don’t think the open run frenzy was all that positive to the brand’s image,” Lee said.
A Chanel employee looks at his tablet at Avenuel World Tower in Jamsil, Seoul. (Byun Hye-jin/The Korea Herald)
Experts say even though Chanel has ramped up prices close to rival luxury house Hermes, people are beginning to doubt that it’s worth the price.
“When people purchase an expensive bag, they relate themselves to the brand -- something that’s luxury and rare. But you don’t feel special when everyone around you carries a Chanel,” said Lee Eun-hee, a consumer science professor at Inha University.
Lee forecast the local open run phenomenon will gradually subside as locked-up demand heads overseas.
“During the early phases of the coronavirus pandemic, people went revenge shopping at luxury stores to reward themselves in the gloomy days of lockdown,” Lee said. “But since many countries are no longer requiring self-quarantine after international travel, people will start to travel overseas and shop there.”
According to Korean reselling platform Kream, the price of Chanel’s medium-sized classic flap bag was around 11.6 million won as of Thursday, down 16.8 percent from 14 million won in the first week of February. The retail price set by Chanel is 11.8 million won.
By Byun Hye-jin (firstname.lastname@example.org