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Chamelezone: Rebirth of Space

In 2019, keywords defining and segmenting the fluid consumer market have become increasingly more important. Among these. The keyword ‘chamelezone' to denote editing shops and offices in cafés has particularly caught attention. In additional, on weekdays, spaces usually reserved for restaurants are now being converted into learning zones or house party venues. Chamelezone then informs that a space is always hiding a multitude of different faces.

What is a Chamelezone?

Chamelezone refers to a space with a single dimensional identity can assume various functional roles much like a chameleon that changes its skin color according to the surrounding environment. It connotes the rebirth of a space through its adoption of another identity such as through collaboration, experience, and opening. In recent years, examples of chamelezones have seen book cafes, kids' cafes, shopping malls, exhibitions, concert halls, and flagship stores all striving to turning their spaces into fluid entities that speak to different crowds.


How did a chamelezone come about?

The rise in the dominance of online shopping has resulted in a crisis of identity for offline outlets: how can they change and entice shoppers to make the effort to visit them? The biggest toy distributor in the UK 'Toysrus' filed for bankruptcy in March 2018 due to its failure to adapt to the digital business environment competition provided by the likes of Amazon and eBay. Indeed, other large retailers, such as Wal-Mart, are promoting vigorous price cuts to keep shoppers interested. As mobile and video devices replace toys, not only traditional toy companies but also distributors are struggling. American IT professional media ‘Quartz’ pointed out the problem of delayed digitization and Toysrus, saying, "They were not able to develop their own platform and to select the products in time." However, not all hope is lost.. Although the UK headquarters finally went bankrupt, Korea's Toysrus store recorded a -1.4% growth rate due to delayed digitization up to 2017 but then turned around again in 2018. Actually, sales of Toysrus in domestic Lottemarts have increased 2.8% year-on-year from 2017 through to September this year. This renaissance coincided with the introduction of the Kidult Zone, in April 2017, in Toysrus, Seoul. Kidult is a compound word formed from 'Kid' and 'Adult', which means 'adult with the same sensitivity and taste as children.' The Toysrus store is transformed into a spacious venue for demonstrating wireless cars and drones, and for exhibits of collectable character figures. Customer response has been better than expected, with the Kidult Zone expanding to another five stores. At the end of 2017, in the Toysrus store of the Eunpyeong branch, Lotte Mall opened NOLAND, an arcade game zone, a first for the large distribution industry.. Thirty six different arcade cabinets were arranged to provide a space both parents and children could enjoy. Kim Kyung-geun, the head of Lotte Mart Toysrus, said, "The toy sales of Kidult will surpass 30 billion won this year, and the sales of toddler toys will also increase."

Another reason for the continued success of chamelezones is their emphasis on the need for unique marketing.  In October 16, 2018, the closure rate for the eight major industries (real estate, food, lodging, etc.) in the second half of 2017 stood at a mighty 2.5%. This means that more businesses are disappearing than new ones appearing. Also the survival rate of owner-operators in Korea shows the following pattern: 1 year at 60.1%, 2 years at 47.3%, 3 years at 38.2%, 4 years at 32.2%, and 5 years at 29.0%.

The Korea National Statistical Office (KNSO) cited the reason for this trend being the unreasonable opening of coffee shops and restaurants that do not require expertise. Therefore, owner-operators should use individual and unique marketing strategies to attract customers. Indeed, customers are now also concerned with factors other than the quality of a product. The Seoul Café Show Secretariat conducted a survey of 1,096 show visitors in 2017, and it was the interior that was the most important factor when visiting cafes, not the taste of coffee. This seems to be response to the increasing SNS activities of women in their 20s to 30s as they upload picture of the places they visit. In addition, the importance of design is not only a visual factor, but also all elements, including cafe, cups and other 'goods items', plating and store atmosphere integrate into one. It is this holistic understanding of a space that is then positioned as a key element to deliver a differentiated concept.


What are chamelezones in our society?

The representative example of a chamelezone, now well known for its unique role in the offline marketplace, is the 'New-tro' concept. Once again the old becomes new again but is not simply retro – it is a new retro. If retro is leaning on the nostalgia of the elderly, New-tro confronts the freshness of the younger generation's feelings. Now the hot-place New-tro-style space has added to its old sensibilities and modern senses. If you go to a popular restaurant or cafe, you can see that it uses old-fashioned shop names such as ‘○○ 상회’ and ‘△△당’ in a font and a sign that would have been used during the flowering of modern civilization. As well as the interiors, the menu and the bowls are also retro. In fact, Dosan Sangsik, located in Apgujung-dong, Seoul, is emerging as the hottest restaurant in Gangnam.  The old-fashioned signboards and interiors of Dosan Sangsik give off a very 1970s and 1980s vibe. For example, the dishes used to serve food like Tteok-bokki are green spotted bowls that you used to see in one of those old restaurants in front of your school. Barley tea is even served in discontinued Delmonte orange juice bottles.

In addition, in Ikseon-dong, an entire old Korean-style neighborhood house, Hanok has been converted to restaurants. The dessert cafe "동백양과점", which is a motif of bakeries in the 1920s, "경양식1920", serves old-style pork cutlet and hamburger steak, and French restaurant that made use of Hanok's style "빠리가옥" In addition, in Sangsu-dong, Mangwon-dong, Seongsu-dong, and Euljiro you can easily find other examples.

In fact, the café '커피한약방' in Euljiro gives visitors a blast from the past by converted a building built in the 40s in to a two-story table space made up of a first-floor drink counter. Kang Yoon-suk (49), a representative of the 커피한약방, said, "I felt sorrow that I had just left my old house, so l remodeled it.” He continued, "At first, there are a lot of people in their 60s and 70s who are nostalgic for the past, but now more young people in their 20s and 30s are coming." Unlike the cleanliness and convenience that franchised cafes offer, the age and the comfort of the old seems to be rising in popularity.


Various brand stores are also trying to transform themselves in order to attract customers. Collaborations are being carried out between different industries, creating multi-cultural spaces and giving customers new experiences. The 'Laundry Project' in Itaewon, Seoul, brought freshness through a combination of a laundromat and cafe. It looks like a cafe, but when you go inside, you have a dozen washing machines. Now, you can enjoy a cup of coffee whilst your clothes are being cleaned. This is a new platform for young people, like the ' Laundry Project', which aims to provide leisure, healing, and an enjoyable meeting place in the daily city grind. 

In additional, as more and more people use internet and mobile banking, fewer people now visiting brick and mortar banks. Thus, banks suffering from high labor costs and property rents are starting to make changes to avoid possible closure. In fact, according to a report released by the Bank of Korea, in April 2018, the number and amount of mobile banking usage increased by 10.8% and 27.2% over the previous year to 58.66 million and 3.976 trillion won, respectively. In 2016, KEB Hana Bank introduced the Shop In Shop by creating a store within a store and opened a bank + cafe with Cafe Paul Basset. As a result, the number of customers as well as cost benefits increased by 10%.

A branch of Hana Bank is carrying out the large-scale 'Culture Bank' project, a new concept store considering the lifestyle of its customers. In July 2018, the third Cultural Bank store opened in Jamsil. This branch features a combination of banks, cafes selling naturalistic menus, and space for exhibiting products based on nature. In October 2018, the 'Culture Bank' 4th store opened. 'Culture Bank' 4th store is a bank store and a 29 ㎝ off-line store in cooperation with KEB Hana Bank and online editing shop '29 ㎝ '. It plans to operate as a new type of local cultural attraction based on a millennial (those born between 1980-2000) lifestyle regarding coffee tasting classes, flower classes, talks given by famous writers and directors, and a seasoned brand pop-up store.


Recently, many companies, including those in the food, beauty, and IT industries, have opened flagship stores. Unlike ordinary stores, spaces for various experiences are set aside to coincide with and enhance the brand image.

In addition to providing a space to experience with the five senses, they intend to imprint more intensely on consumers. In one case, CJ, who owns Olive Young, opened the Olive Young Flagship Store. The reason for this is to increase sales of the entire company by promoting the popular brand to the other brand by promoting the positive image of the consumer. Olive Young's flagship store, which opened on four floors in Gangnam Station on September 30, 2017, is showing remarkable growth, surpassing 5 million cumulative visitors in just one year. On weekends, with a huge floating population, the average number of visitors is over 20,000 daily. The entire first floor of Olive Young offers only color products to reflect their high demand. Among the color products, MAC and the Three Concept Eyes (3CE) and CLIO, which are popular high-end brands, are placed together with indie brands that are popular online sellers. As a result,  sales of color products accounted for 40% of total sales. This is well above the 25% average for the Olive Young store. In addition, they paid attention to customer experience. AR (Augmented Reality) is utilized to enhance the convenience of shopping for consumers. As a result, customer retention times have doubled compared to regular Olive Young stores.

Another example is the bed brand Simmons opening Simmons Terrace, a lifestyle showroom and a multi-cultural space in Icheon, Gyeonggi-do. It is not just a product exhibition space but houses a variety of contents related to beds and aims at being a cultural space rather than just a store. The Simmons Brand Museum 'Heritage Alley', located in Simmons Terrace, provides a glimpse of the brand’s history, including bed history, the process of making beds, and previous Simmons ads.  In addition, the 'mattress lab' offers customers mattress recommendations based on their sleeping habits. In the lounge, various artists from all over the world are invited to present their sensory stories and contents. Some stores have more than 1,700 visitors a week on average at more than 180 stores nationwide.


There is also a space to compete with a unique identity. Since 1990, large bookstores and online bookstores have led to major changes in neighborhood bookstores, which have been hit by direct charges. Recently, a small bookstore by the name 'Independent Bookstore' has been reborn in various places in neighborhoods where the local bookstores had been culled. In addition to curated book sales, there are conversations with writers, one-day writing classes, and sales of workshop goods. The emergence of Independent Bookstores shows that consumers now make purchase choices not necessarily based on price but perhaps on the identity of a bookstore. Local artists can meet their readers and individual bookstores are modeled after tastes of their owners, such as being an art exhibition hall, classroom, or performance hall. Examples of bookstores with such unique identities include Mystery Union, focusing on mystery novels in the back alley of Shinchon Railway Station and Between, a travel bookstore located in the residential area of Yeonnam-dong, Seoul.


Potential pitfalls

In 2016, Taiwan's "Great King Castella" faded from popularity just as quickly as it rose. The 'Newtro' craze, which is prevalent in our society at present, is as well known as one might imagine. Large corporations that are sensitive to trends may be quick to customize their marketing, but it is difficult for small businesses, most businesses in Korea, to quickly adapt to a changing situation. According to the actual Asian economy, in 2017, Japanese style food craze was among the food service industry. As a result, Japanese-style home-style food was born with a similar interior without analysis of Japanese-style home-style food. However, at present, more than 30% of Japanese food restaurants are not able to survive in the foodservice industry. Experts point out that franchise entrepreneurs following temporary fashions can lead to quick closures and a shortened life expectancy. Therefore, one must pay close attention to brand identity or approaching trends.

The proliferation of chamelezones can lead to competition  to create transformations or themes that attract consumer attention. The best example of this is the convenience store sector in Japan. The number of convenience stores nationwide stands at 55,000, but this number is changing with the 4th industrial revolution as the number of customers shrinks due to serious population decline. FamilyMart, one of Japan's major convenience stores, opened a convenience store in January 2018, with a 24-hour fitness center, in Ota-ku, Tokyo. FamilyMart said that convenience stores with laundromats will open in 900 locations nationwide by the end of 2019. Against this backdrop, other convenience store companies are operating competitively with new services that are somewhat far from the mainstream retail business. Seven-Eleven has partnered with telecom companies, such as NTT DoCoMo and SoftBank, to offer bike sharing services at over 100 locations around Tokyo, Yokohama, and Sendai. Mr. Sachida Takashi, president of FamilyMart, points out that he should compete not only with convenience stores but also with pharmacies dealing with Internet retailers, such as Amazon, and miscellaneous goods.


신지원  sjw46121@naver.com

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