K-pop fans brave Seoul's Christmas chill to buy BTS merch

K-pop fans brave Seoul's Christmas chill to buy BTS merch

Queues at House of BTS haven’t stopped, with people hoping for a chance to buy anything from a T-shirt to even a toothbrush.

Goods of K-pop idol boy band BTS are seen on display at a pop-up store selling BTS merchandise in S
Goods of K-pop idol boy band BTS are seen on display at a pop-up store selling BTS merchandise in Seoul, South Korea, December 24, 2019. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

In the early hours of a freezing Christmas Eve, 62-year-old Lee Myeong-sook queues up in Seoul's ritzy Gangnam area for a chance to buy a T-shirt, or maybe even a toothbrush, branded with the logo of K-Pop boyband BTS.

The rest of the district is all but deserted, but a huge line of fans of all ages and nationalities is building up around her outside the pop-up shop House of BTS, dedicated to the seven-piece behind Boy With Luv and other hits.

A fan of K-pop idol boy band BTS poses for photographs with cut-out of BTS at a pop-up store sellin
A fan of K-pop idol boy band BTS poses for photographs with cut-out of BTS at a pop-up store selling BTS goods in Seoul, South Korea, December 24, 2019. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

K-Pop management agencies, including BTS' Big Hit Entertainment, have been expanding their retail operations to capitalise on a merchandising boom – this is the band's first outlet in Seoul with others popping up as far afield as Mexico.

"I want to buy some cushions, dolls, badges, things like that today, and notebooks to give to my friends," said Lee, who waited in line with her 35-year-old daughter.

Fans of K-pop idol boy band BTS shop at a pop-up store selling BTS goods in Seoul
Fans of K-pop idol boy band BTS shop at a pop-up store selling BTS goods in Seoul, South Korea, December 24, 2019. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

Branded jackets sell for 299,000 won (S$348) alongside socks, sleep masks and other merchandise linked to the band which has spearheaded a wave of Korean pop music and become the first group since the Beatles to have three number one albums in the United States in less than a year.

Analysts say demand for the gear is growing as the popularity of K-Pop bands spreads beyond the domestic market across other parts of Asia and into the West.

Japanese fans outside the store told Reuters they had flown in because the Gangnam store "had more stuff" than the three BTS stores in their own country. About 1,500 fans or more visited the store during a single day last week.

Fans of K-pop idol boy band BTS enjoy at a pop-up store selling BTS goods in Seoul
Fans of K-pop idol boy band BTS enjoy at a pop-up store selling BTS goods in Seoul, South Korea, December 24, 2019. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

"I’m hoping to buy whatever I can," said Rebecca Mould, 25, originally from the US city of Boston, a BTS fan for about two years on her first visit to the store. "I already have a lot, so whatever else there is..."

Big Hit – an unlisted company with investments from South Korea's STIC Investments and China's Legend Capital – has launched an app called Weply to sell "merch" to fans worldwide.

It has also partnered with Line Friends, an affiliate of South Korea's top internet firm Naver , to sell goods linked to the BT21 animated characters designed by members of BTS.

"The constant derivation of new products seem to contribute a lot (to sales)," said Han Sang-woung, analyst at Eugene Investment Co Ltd, who estimated agencies' merchandise profit margins at around 20 per cent.

(Source: Reuters)

Source: Reuters

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