In June, RetailDetail will be hosting an exclusive RetailHunt to Singapore, in partnership with Retail’s Big Show Asia Pacific, Asia’s largest retail event. Jorg Snoeck sees how the epicentre of retail is shifting eastwards.
Generational shift in Seoul
RetailDetail aims to host an international RetailHunt at least once a year: 2023’s edition took three groups of top profiles from the Benelux retail sector to Seoul to explore trends in food, fashion and retail real estate. Organiser Jorg Snoeck is already busy preparing for the RetailHunt 2024, but first we take a look back.
What was Seoul 2023 like? What did we miss?
JS: “The difference between two disparate generations is very fascinating to see. You have the generation of parents there on the one hand, with the war still firmly in their minds. Moreover, the constant threat from North Korea creates a special atmosphere. At the other end of the spectrum are the youngsters. With ‘chaebol‘ (conglomerates like Huyndai and Samsung), it makes sense that this highly educated and hard-working youth has the drive of the 1960s in Europe. These youngsters work an average of 52 hours a week. Since they have limited living space, their private lives take place in the ‘onlife’ world. Anything for online perception, they want to belong…”
Sounds fascinating. May we conclude that South Korea has the wind in its sails?
“Yes and no. The drive is there, even if it is mainly to support the family, since the social system there is not the same as the one in Belgium. The biggest challenge will be ageing: how can you keep the economy going when only half as many people will live there within a generation? Today the country still has almost 52 million inhabitants, but soon that number will halve: that is more than two Belgiums gone.”
And is there anything to do in terms of shopping?
“The shops there are absolute gems! It is very clear that they have a gigantic lead in terms of ‘experiental retail’. A really impressive example was the flagship store of exclusive eyewear brand Gentle Monster, which tells a sacred story about gods and rituals. The otherworldly futuristic shops of fashion brand Ader Error must also be seen and experienced. And Kolon Industries, originally an industrial nylon manufacturer, set up an unseen ecosystem for upcycling unsold or used fashion items and fabrics. Very inspiring!”
We thought you were going to skip Asia for a year, but you have caught us off guard: next year you are heading to Singapore?
“Well, that was not the plan initially, but when you get a call from NRF’s Big Show, the world’s biggest retail event, which is coming to Singapore for the first time, this was a no-brainer. We are the exclusive media partner for the Benelux. Just look at who is coming to speak at the NRF in New York in January: big names like Magic Johnson, Drew Barrymore and plenty of world-class retail leaders. Just imagine what is that going be like in Asia!”
That sounds impressive, but what do we, Europeans, actually have to do in Asia?
“You have to realise that the epicentre of retail is shifting from the West to Asia and Africa, simply because two-thirds of the world’s population lives there. Those are huge growth markets. They are also taking a technological lead: in Asia, they are not held back by the GDPR rules imposed by Europe. At the show, I am definitely looking forward to seeing their Innovation Lab, the Start-up zone and, of course, the nearly 20,000 sqm of exhibition space. Expect your jaw to drop onto the floor!”
RetailDetail is not only going to visit the fair, we will also have our own programme there?
“Yes, we are going to put our own touches, we are creating a kind of ‘best of’ – with the active support of NRF. Our participants will get real VIP facilities, with access to the Red Carpet Club. So we get to meet the biggest profiles from the Asian retail sector. In collaboration with some trend agencies, we put together our own programme. Participants can decide which part of the NRF keynotes they want to attend, and which store tours they want to experience, as we are going to highlight different themes. In recent years, we have built up a loyal clientele of several hundred participants, who we often see returning. As with the RetailHunt Dubai in 2021, we will go with a larger group next year because we have the facilities.”
The trip takes place from 8 to 15 June, which is coming up fast…
“You can say that again, fewer than 200 days left. So booking now is the message, because full is full. We are giving another 10 % early bird discount until 11 January, my birthday. After that, you pay the full price. You can register via this landing page, where you can also view testimonials from enthusiastic participants of previous RetailHunts by RetailDetail. A trip like this is also a unique networking event!”