The key marketing strategy in fashion this year targets middle-aged women who lavishly spend on themselves.
More and more middle-aged women want to defy age and emulate the looks of actresses who are around the same age as them but look much younger, like Lee Mi-sook, Choi Myung-gil and Kim Hee-ae. They therefore spend a great deal of time and money on grooming themselves rather than only looking after their children and husband. For a long time the fashion industry focused on young women, but since 2008 things have changed as spending by women in their 40s and 50s exceeds spending by younger women.
Cheil Industries launched new brand Le Beige in spring 2009 specifically targeting women in their 40s and 50s. The brand posted sales of W12.5 billion (US$1=W1,149) just last year, and a single outlet in the Gangnam branch of Shinsegae Department Store racked up sales of W2.52 billion. In the industry, sales of W3 billion a year are regarded as a success.
The secret was that the brand accurately read the desires of middle-aged women. It decided that if women wanted a sophisticated look in their 20s and 30s, then they would want to look young and sophisticated in middle age too. The brand features a lot of dresses and jackets that make women look slimmer and more refined. Now, high-end designers as well as mid- and low-priced brands are jumping into the market.
According to a report by a brand consultancy firm PFIN based on data from Statistics Korea, 23 percent of women aged between 40 and 49 in 2008 made impulsive purchases if they found clothes they liked. But that had risen to 50 percent just a year later. In 2008, only 24 percent of women in the same age bracket answered they did not consider it a waste to spend money on making themselves look good, but that grew to 45 percent in 2009.
Even brands that normally target women in their 20s and 30s started making clothes in bigger sizes, figuring that middle-aged women may also want the trendy designs they sell.
Lingerie makers have started launching new lines for middle-aged women. A spokesman at Vivien, a leading lingerie maker, said, "Underwear lines exclusively for women in their 40s and 50s were non-existent until 2007, but there has been a steep increase in demand since the end of 2008."