Although there’s still an underlying chill, it’s undeniable that something in the air has shifted: spring is here. And with its arrival, like every new season, millions can be heard saying, “But I have nothing to wear!”
Quite sure this is a global phenomenon, but spring in Korea is particularly tricky. The weather is so mercurial that one day it brinks on summer, while another you just want to hide in your duck-down parka again, yet the sun shines so gloriously bright that you just can’t bring yourself to put on the heavy colors of your winter wardrobe.
Consequently, you need extra clothes (and accessories) for the in-between transitional seasons, which can wreak havoc on your clothing budget, but if you’re a smart shopper, that doesn’t have to be the case.
There are a lot of choices when shopping for clothes in Korea; from thrift shops to luxury brands, there is a wide selection for every style and budget. Every season brings upon a slew of new trends that are quickly picked up by the uberstylish who flaunt their stuff, and they would be shopping in the city’s trendy shopping districts (Cheongdam, Myeongdong, Gangnam, and Dongdaemun in Seoul) but for those who don’t necessarily have to be on top of the fashion trends, or for the type of clothing that rely less on those fashion trends, shopping outlets can be a great option.
Most outlets carry collections from past seasons which shouldn’t be a problem when you’re looking for something basic and classic, like straight jeans or turtleneck sweater or a black wool coat. Personally, I find outlets the best choice when buying sportswear and outerwear (since I’m not that concerned about getting those running shoes marketed by a certain sports celebrity).
The major attraction of these outlets is, of course, the prices. Although the percentages of discounts vary depending on the item, brand, and the outlet, you do get fantastic deals; you can get a full outfit from head to toe with what you’d usually pay for a single item at a department store, for example.
Very few of the outlets are stand-alone shops; many are complexes, like an outdoor shopping mall. Although you can get almost everything at once place, many outlets are put together according to target market. There are outlets specializing in golf and sportswear, shoes and accessories, childrenswear and babywear, so on and so forth.
Some people may say the problem with outlets is the accessibility; that it’s impossible to go without a car. Think about this for a moment, though. If you had a shopping outlet, would you make it difficult to access for people who want to shop on a budget and don’t have personal vehicles available? I think not. Outlets can be reached by public transportation easily. There might not be a subway station nearby, but the bus system is more than efficient to get where you want to go. (There are also many, many, many transportation apps out there which will tell you how to get exactly there.)
They’re not “far”, either. Maybe they look kind remote on the map, but in the case of Seoul, the outlets are within the Metropolitan area, so those who live in the outskirts of Seoul might find themselves closer to the outlets than going into Seoul itself.
To be frank, some outlets are better than others, not particularly in the merchandise they sell but how they are put together. Some places might not be worth your time (although they are accessible, you do have to put into account your travel time as well), so it’s good to be informed before heading off to your shopping spree.
Some of the notable shopping outlets are:
NewCore and 2001 Outlet
Run by the same company, the stores are found within the city and look like regular department stores, which is their basic concept. The main NewCore store in Banpo, Seoul was established as a regular department store in the late ‘70s but now the stores – both NewCore and 2001 – are outlets for various national and international brands.
You won’t find this season’s hot item, but you’d find the past season’s hot item very easily, at a great price. Like a regular department store, they carry all types of merchandise and not just clothes, and have cultural centers.
Another advantage: Kim’s Club is adjacent to all the stores so you can get your grocery shopping done at the same time.
Most of the branches are in Seoul and the Metropolitan area, but can be found nationwide.
Overly self-promoting superlative name aside, the Premium Outlets really do have a leg up on other “regular” outlets. They are vast outdoor shopping malls with restaurants, cafés and food courts, carrying all sorts of merchandise from clothing to household goods. International designer and luxury brands can also be found here.
There are branches in Yeoju and Paju, on the environs of Seoul. (The former is most famous for being showcased heavily in the K-pop group Wonder Girls’ music video “Like This”.) A Busan branch is planned to open this year.
Lotte Premium Outlets & Lotte Outlets
Another premium outlet franchise, department store guru Lotte has its own, which is marketed as a “complex lifestyle shopping outlet”. Because of its affiliation, Lotte point cards and gift certificates are usable here, and another valuable asset to the outlet is the Lotte Cinema theaters which make the outlet a true one-stop place to go. The Premium Outlets are in Gimhae (near Busan) and also in Paju (which makes Paju a great place to shop with all the outlets there).
The Lotte Outlets aren’t huge complexes like the premium versions, but are easily accessible. Most notable is that in Seoul Station, while there are branches in Daegu, Gwangju, and Cheongju.
The Outlets in Gasan
As in the case of Paju, outlets and outlet malls tend to flock together in the same area. Gasan, where the Digital Complex is, is one of those areas in Seoul where you can find a bunch of department store style outlets grouped together. The outlets there include W-Mall, Fashion Island Outlet Mall, MARIO Outlet, and Hyhill, which focus mainly on the young casual and sportswear brands.
Ilsan Deogi Rodeo Outlet
Before Paju, there was Deogi. Situated in Ilsan, the outlets are easily accessible from northern Seoul. Not much of a shopping mall, but a road of several standing stores grouped together. Golfwear and sportswear are the main focus, and you’d find the occasional gem at the shoe stores, too.
Besides the conglomerated outlet malls above, many brands have their own outlet stores, either within the city or in the suburbs, so if there is a particular brand which you are fond of, it’s good to ask the next time you’re shopping. Most of the outlets have online shopping malls, so check them out, too.
*All photos courtesy of the official sites