G.U, a casual clothing retailer owned by the parent company of Uniqlo, opened its first Korea store in the Lotte World Mall in southern Seoul on September 14 with the promise of bolder patterns and slightly lower prices that can’t be found at its better-known sister brand.
The 1,390-square-meter (14,960-square-foot) store in the mall’s basement comprises 11 sections divided by gender, age and apparel, from sportswear and pajamas to suits and business casual clothing. GU’s parent company is Japan’s Fast Retailing, best known for Uniqlo.
“Part of our strategy is to divide sections not only by demographics but style,” said Koh Ah-ra, head of GU’s Korea operation, “and suggest style examples for each section and update products every week to offer consumers an idea of the global fashion trend.”
At a press event on September 13, Koh noted that half of the store’s floor space had been dedicated to mannequins showing different style options using GU products. Trendiness, she said, is the core identity that separates it from Uniqlo’s focus on good-quality but basic items like white shirts and trousers. For that reason, GU has established research centers in the fashion capitals of Tokyo and London.
GU is not new to fashion enthusiasts, thanks to its association with Uniqlo. On opening day, there was already a queue outside when the doors opened at 10 a.m.
The store’s interior does not look drastically different from Uniqlo, with apparel hung in neat lines on clean white shelves. The noticeable difference is the colors and patterns – bright oranges and red checkered patterns that might not be found among Uniqlo’s more earthy tones.
The Jamsil store has 40 “fashion advisers” on hand to help customers find the right items for their style and offer advice if they want to step outside of the box to try something new. The advisers, according to GU, are tested on their basic knowledge of fashion and are not required to wear uniforms. They pick their own clothes, often in opposition to each other. One employee might be wearing street fashion while another has on business casual, a rare practice in Korean fast fashion.
GU’s first store in Korea is also a testing ground for retail tech. One is the GU Fashion Stand, a kiosk that shows photos and Instagram posts of models wearing GU items. Customers can tap specific items on the screen to look up product information and put them in a wish list that can be sent to their smartphone.
The prices, however, are not drastically different from those at Uniqlo, despite GU promoting lower cost as one of its advantages. The discount largely ranged from several thousand won to around 10,000 won (a couple of dollars to US$10) compared to similar items at Uniqlo.
Several items at the Jamsil store are currently exclusive to Korea, including long padded coats and skinny ankle jeans.
(Source: Korea Joongang daily)