Lotte Department Store, the largest department store chain in South Korea, threw a party for some 200 of its VIP customers last month. About 10 luxury brands, including watchmaker IWC and designer clothing brand Thom Browne, set up booths. Models presented top styles for the upcoming season at a mini-fashion show. Only men with annual purchases of more than 100mn won (S$117,180) were invited. The department store chain has witnessed a steady increase in men's purchases, from around 25% of total sales in 2016 to 31% last year. More recently, a noticeable change has been taking place in the items that men buy. In 2017, the top three categories were electronics, menswear and outdoor gear. Between January and September this year, the list comprised electronics, beauty and personal care, and imported luxury. Lotte says men in their 20s and 30s - millennials who are more conscious of their self-image and willing to spend on themselves - are the ones behind the shift. Lotte is not the only retailer paying keen attention to male shoppers.

Men in South Korea gripped by lure of luxury

Shinsegae, which in March last year launched a credit card exclusively for men in partnership with Samsung Card, analysed the data from card users' purchasing patterns. It found that men visited its stores less often, but when they did, they spent four times more than their female counterparts. Meanwhile, Galleria Department Store saw a 32% increase year-on-year in sales of men's luxury brands last year and is again logging double-digit growth this year. Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Fendi and Dior added new stores for men in South Korea over the past year or so. Hyundai has dedicated a section to men's fashion and beauty at some of its branches in and around Seoul, encompassing fashion, jewellery, electronics, cameras, bicycles and even a premium beauty shop. In August this year, Lotte introduced a Fendi's collection for men at a pop-up store. A previous pop-up in February had featured new watches from IWC. Wristwatches are popular items for young luxury buyers, as are sneakers.