Retail in Asia


Korea’s MZ generation propels the rise of art in retail

Every year, consumer preferences and needs shift, and along with this constant evolution is the rise of new trends.

The latest trend in the retail industry? Art.

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According to Korea’s Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, sales in the domestic art distribution market in 2022 increased by 37 percent compared to sales in 2021, recording approximately KRW 1.37 trillion (USD 1.037 billion), exceeding KRW 1 trillion for the first time ever, as earlier reported by Sisa Focus.

Source: Frieze and Let’s Studio

Drawing much attention in 2022, Frieze Seoul made its debut in the Gangnam district in partnership with Galleries Association Korea, which marked the global art fair organiser’s grand foray into Asia. Frieze’s debut in Korea attracted comparisons to Art Basel Hong Kong, as well as other major art fairs in Asia, from Taipei Dangdai to Art SG.

As the art market continues to grow in Korea and beyond, the retail industry is increasing investment in art and strengthening its art-related marketing. Three major department stores in Korea, namely Lotte, Shinsegae, and Hyundai, are actively seeking ways of generating new revenue as well as an increase in store traffic and brand awareness.

The diverse appeal of art aligns with consumers’ preference for immersive and interactive spaces. The experiential component offered by various art mediums offers a more comfortable, natural environment for consumers to appreciate arts and culture, even in commercial spaces such as stores and shopping centres.

Starfield Library in COEX Mall. Source: Shutterstock

And Korea’s largest shopping centres appear to have long tracked the trend. In September 2021, Lotte Department Store launched an ‘Art Contents Room’ to expand its expertise in the art field and launched related businesses. Hyundai Department Store launched a content team to strengthen collaborations with arts and cultural events, while Shinsegae Department Store set up a dedicated gallery team composed of curators and plans to boost similar offerings through an investment in Seoul Auction.

Another factor bolstering art in retail is the growing influence of younger consumers. A recently published report, ‘Analysis of Korean Millennial and Generation Z Art Collectors’, commissioned by the Korea Art Management Service (KAMS), introduced the MZ (millennial and Gen Z) cohort, comprised of a market born between 1981 to 2005 and keen on purchasing art for investment and personal satisfaction.

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With the art and retail industries now sharing the same target consumer group in the MZ generation, it makes sense for Korea’s retail conglomerates to focus on art programming.