SEOUL — & Other Stories, H&M Group’s lifestyle concept brand, has opened its first Asia flagship in Seoul, South Korea.
The 7,100-square-foot, three-floor shop is located in Apgujeong, Seoul’s luxury shopping district. It has a stark white exterior and a woodsy, minimalist Scandinavian-inspired decor.
The retailer went ahead with the opening despite recent political events such as former president Park Geun-hye’s corruption trial and subsequent impeachment, and the THAAD-related issues with China, which experts believe could severely impact the local economy. (THAAD stands for Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, which has been designed to shoot down ballistic missiles midflight.)
Asked about the decision to launch its first Asia flagship on the day of Park’s impeachment and amid diplomatic tensions with China, the brand’s public relations manager Elke Kieft said: “It’s difficult for me to answer if I don’t have the full picture.”
The retailer said South Korea’s reputation as a fashion trend leader, as well as its popularity as a regional tourist destination, made Seoul an obvious choice for & Other Stories’ Asian launch.
“When we started to look at potential openings and expansion, we felt that Korean women had such amazing style and are so fashion savvy,” she said, adding the brand’s European store staff had noticed that Korean customers were among its biggest demographic.
The brand will launch its second shop in Korea at Starfield Hanam mall in Hanam, near Seoul, on March 17.
& Other Stories first launched as a beauty brand in 2013 before developing its own casualwear and accessories lines. Today, & Other Stories has 45 shops worldwide.
The brand’s spring collection has a diverse array of women’s bags, shoes, beauty products, stationery, jewelry and ready-to-wear pieces, with looks that range from bohemian to office casual. “From the start, it was quite clear that we wanted the collections to be created via different cities,” said Kieft, adding that designers work from studios in Paris, Los Angeles and Stockholm.
“The Paris-created designs are more feminine and bohemian, while collections from Stockholm are on the minimalistic side,” explained Kieft. “I think this can appeal to a lot of women.”
The price points are closer to COS than to H&M, said Kieft. “But our price range is very wide because we have nail polishes for 7 euros, or $7.47, as well as a pair of boots for 350 euros, or $373,” she said.
Kieft said there are no other Asia flagships or stores in the pipeline yet. “Nothing is confirmed. But there’s definitely potential for growth,” she added.
Over the past decade, H&M and other international fast-fashion retailers have been bullish on the South Korean market. Alongside Zara and Uniqlo, H&M is among the top three international high street fashion retailers in South Korea. According to Korean press reports the three brands were reported to have reached a combined $1.7 billion in sales in 2016.
While H&M and Zara have not seen major growth in Korea over the past few years, those brands are expanding their distribution channels in a bid to increase overall market share in Korea. Zara launched its Zara Home stores, while H&M has been keen to launch subbrands including H&M Home and COS, in South Korea.
H&M’s designer collections, capsule editions and celebrity collaborations have been a hit in the region. In 2014 Korean shoppers lined up for more than 48 hours to purchase the brand’s Alexander Wang line, while the brand’s 2016 collaboration with Kenzo was considered a great success.