Goods made for one- or two-member households are rapidly becoming the most popular items in the market these days. The changing family structure in Korea is exerting a significant influence across the consumer products and services industries. Daewoo Electronics sells a small-capacity air conditioner which has become popular with singles and dual-income families living in studio apartments. Since its launch two years ago, sales of the product have grown 50 percent a year. Half-sized washing machines weighing only six kg are also enjoying surging sales. Haier, a Chinese brand, has even introduced a mini-washing machine that weighs about three kg.
"Compact appliances have traditionally been targeted at Japanese consumers, but the domestic consumer base for such products recently has grown even larger," said Chae Kyung-ah, an executive at Daewoo Electronics. "While bigger household appliances have been popular as dowry items, nowadays compact products are selling just as well."
In the housing market, demand for small apartments and studios has skyrocketed. Prices for 46-sq. m homes at Hill State Apartments in Samseong-dong, which opened last December, have jumped dramatically, with some now exceeding W400 million. Prices for 39-sq. m homes at Regents Apartments in Jamsil-dong have climbed more than W60 million since last year, and now currently range from W380 million to W410 million.
Although it was believed that many of these small apartments would be difficult to sell as they were forcibly constructed under the government's reconstruction policies, they have since become popular among individuals and two-member households. Kim Seon-deok, director of the Construction Industry Strategy Research Center, said, "The increase in the number of people living alone has boosted demand for small, practical residences located within metropolitan areas and close to work, with easy access to public transportation and other conveniences."
Meanwhile, the growing number of households with pets is stimulating pet-related businesses and industries. The Korea Pet Products Manufacturers' Association estimates that some 10 million Koreans own pets, while the value of the market for pet goods and services is close to W1 trillion. The growth of the market has spawned not only hospitals, hotels, cafes, preschools, hairdressers, and clothes for pets, but professions such as pet undertakers. Now some credit card companies even offer discount coupons for pet care and pet medical insurance. "The rapid growth of the domestic pet market since 2000 is closely connected to the rise in the number of one- and two-member households," said Professor Suh Seung-kyo of Daegu Polytechnic College.
The matchmaking industry is also changing. The increasing number of remarriages has created an important source of income for matchmakers, with some businesses now mainly specializing in remarriage. "A firm specializing in remarriages made a sensation last year by becoming the second-highest earning company in the industry," said a market insider. "The proportion of remarriages in the matchmaking market has grown from five percent to 20 percent in a decade."
The rise in the number of families comprised of working moms and stay-at-home dads has also prompted companies to create products targeted at such househusbands, such as baby interpreters, diaper bags and easy-to-use vacuum cleaners and rice cookers. Shinsegae Department Store recently installed diaper changing stations -- previously exclusive to women's restrooms -- in men's bathrooms as well. In fact, the National Statistical Office last year forecast stay-at-home dads to be an emerging consumer group.
Professor Lee Dong-jin of the School of Business at Yonsei University believes the market for products designed for one- or two-member families will continue to expand. "Systematic approaches and analyses of lifestyles and values of such households are needed in order to effectively attract them to the market," Lee said.