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Companies cash in on Soohorang success

Good prices and short supply boost sales of Olympic products
Feb 22,2018
Ice dancers Min Yu-ra, left and Alex Gamelin pose for a photo wearing the Olympic-ring sunglasses and holding stuffed Soohorang plush dolls wearing traditional Korean clothes on Feb. 7 at the athlete’s village in Gangneung. [NEWS1]
People queue in front of Super Store, the official souvenir shop for the PyeongChang Olympics, located in Gangneung on Tuesday. [YONHAP]
Clockwise from left, the PyeongChang edition of Omega’s Seamaster Aqua Terra watch, P&G’s Pitera Essence, Lotte Department Store’s backpack and sneakers, stuffed dolls of Soohorang, left, and Bandabi. [EACH COMPANY]
Picking up a souvenir or two is common practice at any global sports event.

Scouring through a souvenir shop to stockpile dozens of items, however, is a little less common.

Souvenirs from the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics are selling like hotcakes both in stores and online, and some buyers are going to great lengths to get their hands on the popular items.

The overnight queues to buy the PyeongChang bench coat back in October proved to be just the start of the Olympic shopping frenzy.

From stuffed animals to lifestyle and apparel products, a whole range of products is proving popular both with the home and overseas audiences, with affordable prices and limited supplies helping to pull in consumers.

Companies that are partnered with the Olympics have also been taking the opportunity to launch PyeongChang editions of their major products to celebrate the global event - and cash in on the shopping frenzy.

Shopping for Soohorang

Soohorang, the official mascot of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, has proven to be a crowd pleaser at the Games.

Fans of the friendly white tiger are making their way to the official souvenir shop, Super Store, and its website to get their hands on the cuddly stuffed tiger. Limited editions with distinctive clothes or accessories are the most sought-after products.

A lot of the most popular Soohorang versions are only available in the Olympic Plaza stores in Pyeongchang County and Gangneung, Gangwon, but most of them are already sold out.

“I came here to buy the limited edition of Soohorang wearing a ski uniform, but they are already sold out,” said Kim Min-kyu, who was shopping at a branch of the Super Store in Myeong-dong Lotte Department Store on Tuesday.

“So I just bought the original one for me and my children who are obsessed with this character,” he added.

According to Choi Eun-kyung, a buyer of the Olympics souvenirs at Lotte, some 10,000 units of the original Soohorang plush doll are restocked to each Super Store branch every day.

“The most popular items at the Super Store are hands-down the stuffed Soohorang. Most of the limited editions are already sold out, as you can see,” she said.

Lifestyle products also proved to be an unexpected steady seller at the store, according to Choi. Tumblers, mugs and Lego-like block toys featuring the Soohorang character have all sold well, she said.

Value for money

The affordable price proved to be the selling point for a lot of customers.

“I was surprised at the affordable price of these apparel products,” said Richard Arcus from London, who was visiting Seoul after watching the Games at PyeongChang.

He went to the Myeong-dong branch because the stores in PyeongChang and Gangneung had an hour-long queue just to get in the door.

“Most of the products at, for example, the football world cup are very pricey. I was impressed how fair the pricing is for everything here,” he added.

Hoodies featuring Soohorang are retailed at 49,000 won ($45.57) and T-shirts cost 23,900 won.

Three PyeongChang products launched by Lotte Department Store - the bench coat, sneakers and backpack - have especially benefited from having a cheap price.

The bench coat, which cost 149,000 won, sold out of 30,000 units early on and the retailer doesn’t plan to sell more.

The PyeongChang sneakers, which launched in December, are sold at 50,000 won per pair. The white sneakers have sold an accumulated 60,000 pairs as of January, according to the retailer.

The backpack is sold for 60,000 won.

The Olympic rings

Nothing is more reminiscent of the Olympics than its famous rings.

The PyeongChang Olympics’ official worldwide partners including P&G and Omega have launched special editions of popular products featuring the symbols.

Swedish watch brand Omega launched three limited edition watches in time for the PyeongChang Olympics. The Seamaster Aqua Terra’s PyeongChang version is inscribed with “PyeongChang 2018” in five colors that represent the rings. It costs 7.2 million won. Omega also launched a limited edition of the Seamaster Planet Ocean that is tinted with blue and red colors that represent Korea’s national flag. It is retailed at 8.6 million won.

Most recently, it launched five pieces of the Seamaster Olympic Games Collection that comes in the five distinctive colors of the rings. It goes for 6 million won.

Global household products company P&G has also launched a limited edition of its Pitera Essence, a facial treatment product, with a distinctive flame-red bottle to symbolize the Olympic spirit.

There are even items available at the Games that cannot be bought at all.

The IOC has been sporadically distributing sunglasses shaped like the Olympic rings. The irregular distribution - the time and the location are posted a day early on its official Instagram page - has made the sunglasses more coveted in Pyeongchang and Gangneung.

There are already dozens of posts looking for a seller of the special sunglasses on an online secondhand market. So far, the glasses are proving difficult to find.

On Monday, the IOC’s Instagram account posted that stock has run out and there will be no more sunglasses given out.

BY JIN EUN-SOO [jin.eunsoo@joongang.co.kr]