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Curling fever gives sales an unexpected boost

Feb 28,2018
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1. Skip Kim Eun-jung’s glasses from local brand Plume sold out last week. 2. A PyeongChang Olympics curling stone cushion. 3. Lotte World offers a 50 percent discount for visitors that have “yeong” or “mi” in their names. 4. Team Kim’s uniforms were made by local sportswear brand Fila. The company has been providing clothes for Korea’s curling team since 2012. [LOTTE SHOPPING, LOTTE WORLD, YONHAP]
The popularity of the Korean women’s curling team - undoubtedly one of the PyeongChang Olympics’ biggest sensations - is boosting sales in the retail sector as consumers are queuing up to buy products with any connection to the silver medalist team.

Skip Kim Eun-jung’s glasses are now as recognizable as her stern poker face. Her distinctive look was at the center of a flood of internet memes and led to the nickname “Ankyeong Unnie,” Korean for “Glasses Sister.”

Her popularity not only led to a flood of social media posts, but also noticeably boosted glasses sales.

E-commerce website Auction said that sales of glasses with thick frames like Kim Eun-jung’s were up 63 percent last week compared to the previous week.

But the company hit with the biggest jackpot was the original manufacturer of the skip’s glasses.

Kim Eun-jung’s glasses are made by a local brand called Plume. The glasses are manufactured by a small manufacturer named Phantom Optical in Daegu. Teammate Kim Seon-yeong’s glasses are from the same brand.

Models of both curlers’ glasses sold out last week when the team played its final games at the Olympics. Orders have shot up by 500 percent since before the Games.

The news has reached Daegu’s regional government. Local bureaucrats are reportedly considered naming Kim Eun-jung - or possibly the whole team - as the honorary ambassador for Daegu-made glasses. More than 80 percent of Korea’s glasses manufacturers are based around the city.

Another product that has seen an unexpected boom on the back of Kim Eun-jung’s popularity is Gundam figures. Sales of Gundam figures - models which depict characters from the fictional Gundam universe - and other kidult products rose 114 percent at e-commerce platform Ticket Monster in the last week of the Olympics compared to the previous week. By product, assembly toys like Gundam rose 80 percent over the same period.

Pictures of Gundam figures uploaded on Kim Eun-jung’s Facebook went viral as proof that she has a softer side - a marked contrast to her famous game face. It was later revealed by coach Kim Min-jung that building Gundam figures and playing with Lego blocks was a pastime she and the team had turned to after failing to be selected for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

Curling-related goods at PyeongChang’s official store are sold out. There were 10 different products at first, including dolls, t-shirts, badges and magnets. They are all now sold out at the official Olympics store.

“We don’t keep track of all brick-and-mortar stores for PyeongChang goods, but I’m pretty sure none of them will have curling-related products left,” said a spokesman for Lotte Shopping, the manufacturer of PyeongChang goods. “Curling stone cushions and the stuffed Soohorang doll holding a curling stone were among the most popular.”

Team Kim’s uniforms were made by Fila, who have been outfitting Korea’s curling team since 2012.

“It’s hard to suggest [the advertising effect] in accurate numbers, but Team Kim’s performance and popularity helped our brand logo get exposed on television multiple times worldwide, so we’re expecting it to have boosted our brand image and perception,” said the company.

As the team gained popularity, questions appeared on social media asking whether the curling team’s Fila uniforms were available in stores. A spokesman for the local sportswear company said they did receive requests to sell the uniform but said the company has not yet made a decision.

Amusement park Lotte World has also swept into the curling craze, launching a promotion based on Team Kim’s lead Kim Yeong-mi’s name. Kim Eun-jung’s emphatic shouts of “Yeong-mi” quickly became a globally recognizable catchphrase during the Games, and Lotte World has decided to celebrate this, offering anybody with either of the syllables - “yeong” or “mi” - in their name a 50 percent discount on the amusement park’s entrance fee until March 18.


BY SONG KYOUNG-SON [song.kyoungson@joongang.co.kr]