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Golfwear market goes luxury in S. Korea

Golf apparel trend moving towards pricey items with T-shirts priced between 200,000-900,000 won

A promotional image of Handsome‘s new golf wear brand Lanvin Blanc. (Handsome)
A promotional image of Handsome‘s new golf wear brand Lanvin Blanc. (Handsome)
As golf becomes one of the most enjoyed leisure activities in South Korea, not only fashion companies but also others far from apparel business are launching luxury golfwear products, expanding the market size by value.

According to the Korea Leisure Industry Institute, the value of the local golfwear industry, which was placed at 4.5 trillion won ($3.5 billion) in 2019, grew about 10 percent annually, despite ongoing COVID-19 restrictions. The market size was placed at 5.6 trillion won as of 2021, a greater value than that of the United States and Japan combined.

Over 160 local golf apparel brands already existed at the end of 2021, but companies from different industries continue foraying into the business. South Korean platform giant Kakao Corp. launched its golf wear brand Kakao Friends Golf in June, and popular activewear brand Xexymix launched its golf product line in May.

Large conglomerates have also been jumping into the business, with CJ, Samsung Construction and Trading and Shinsegae all launching golfwear brands earlier this year. Hyundai Department Store‘s fashion retail arm Handsome became the latest addition to the list, launching its golf apparel brand Lanvin Blanc on Monday.

With new brands springing up left and right, the industry’s consumer trend has been moving towards pricey luxury items. Most golfwear products feature hefty price tags, with T-shirts being priced between 200,000 and 900,000 won.

Industry insiders attribute this trend to the influx of female golfers in their 20s and 30s.

According to a study done by local marketing research firm DMC Report, over half of all golf apparel customers in 2021 were women, while 33.1 percent were women in their 20s and 30s. The study also included a survey which found that customers of all genders and age groups considered design over functionality and price when shopping for golfwear.

“After COVID-19, as customers in their 20s and 30s entered the golfwear market, a trend formed where people consumed golfwear like luxury goods,” said an industry insider. “Unlike in Europe and the US, where golf is considered a sport, Korea and Japan have a culture where golf is connected to business,” he added.

“Wearing certain brands on the course gives me a sense of confidence,” said a 23-year old female golfer surnamed Lee. “Also, because everyone else is wearing expensive luxury clothes, I think I’d feel left out if I wore something else,” she added.

Over 5.5 million, or about 10 percent of Koreans, were reported to have regularly enjoyed golf in 2021, according to another study by the Korea Leisure Industry Research Institute. As more people play golf, the institute projected the golfwear industry’s value to reach 6.3 trillion won by the end of this year.

By Lee Seung-ku (seungku99@heraldcorp.com)
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