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2019 F/W Seoul Fashion Week: International buyers discuss e-commerce

March 21, 2019 - 18:24 By Im Eun-byel
As a part of the 2019 F/W Seoul Fashion Week, the Seoul Design Foundation arranged a mentoring session Thursday, allowing international buyers to discuss the future of e-commerce.

Five buyers who visited the fashion event -- Danny Stienen, a buyer from Antonioli (online concept store based in Milan), Constanza Lombardi and Thibaud Etcheberry from Browns (boutique concept store based in London), Nichole Spellman and Michal Kurtis, buyers from Barney’s New York (American department store chain) -- participated in the mentoring session, meeting with around 150 young locals here who are interested in taking up a job in the fashion industry. 

International buyers speak during a mentoring session held Thursday at the Dongdaemun Design Plaza in central Seoul. (Im Eun-byel / The Korea Herald)

While the buyers agreed that e-commerce is growing stronger in the fashion industry every year, they stressed on the role of offline stores.

“The portion of personal luxury goods purchases that happen online is about 7 percent. It will grow, expected to plateau at 20 percent in 2025,” Lombardi said, citing a study. “But still, this means that a vast majority of sales still take place offline.”

Lombardi explained, retailers must work out a strategy to play offline stores and online websites together. Combining offline and online channels, retailers can create a seamless shopping experiences for customers.

“Digital is influencing most consumption behaviors and the creation of desire. Online can tell us a lot about what our customers want in store and let us reach a wider audience from all around the world,” she said.

“We always need to realize, people want to shop and make sure what we are offering is a shopping destination, where brands aren’t simply sold but shaped and adapted fit the customer. Stores will always be a key to a retailer strategy. Retail is not dying but changing,” the buyer from London said.

“Our world is wider than the product. A store is a curated space that includes fashion, art, furniture and much more,” she said.

Buyers from Barney‘s New York agreed, claiming that they don’t see offline and online channels as separate experiences. Though Barney’s New York is a chain of luxury department stores, the buyers explained it to be a “digital data company.”

“We know a lot about our online customers. We know what they want by analyzing the time that they spend on our pages,” Kurtis said. According to her, Barney’s New York website gets 5 million visits per month, generating 30 percent of total sales.

“The online customers are mobile savvy, the website has to get consistently revamped for convenience. A testament of our international growth, South Korea has doubled its sales.”

“But still, going to Barney’s on a weekend is an activity, more than just shopping,” Kurtis said. “It is about going on a brunch with your girlfriends, experiencing the curation of Barney’s New York.”

By Im Eun-byel (