Depending on the definition, South Korea remains the world's second-largest market for outdoor products after the U.S. It is still much larger than the Chinese outdoor market, but its growth is slowing down after rising by more than 30 percent in each of the last three years.
According to an authoritative market research company, the core outdoor market in the country was worth the equivalent of US$3.7 billion at the retail level in 2011, and local industry executives had told us late last year that its growth was unlike to reach 20 percent (see Compass vol. 5-23+24 of Nov. 11, 2012).
However, the market still grew by 32.1 percent in 2012, according to Dong Chil Kwon, president of Treksta and of the national outdoor industry association. The slowdown has been delayed by only a few months, as he is only predicting an increase of 11.3 percent for the current year to a total of $6.4 billion.
The higher market figure quoted by Kwon includes camping products and outdoor-inspired and functional clothing, footwear and accessories that are also worn by the local population in urban environments. This type of softgoods is still in fashion and is projected to represent 16.6 percent of the total fashion market, up from 2.6 percent ten years ago.
When it comes to the multiple uses of outdoor products based on the Korean association's definition of the market, 60 percent are used in the country for hiking, 14 percent for trekking, 9 percent for cycling, 5 percent for travel, 2 percent as underwear and one percent for sailing.
There are more than 100 local and foreign brands selling outdoor products in Korea at this moment, but several small and medium-sized brands are struggling right now, said Kwon.