There is a building in a mountainside village in eastern Jeju where a constant procession of visitors flock to take photographs. These visitors are not photographing Jeju’s usual tourist attractions like dolhareubang or natural vista, but rather the signboard of Blue Bottle Café, which bears a logo depicting the eponymous blue bottle.
▲ Blue Bottle Café (Photo courtesy of Blue Bottle Coffee Company)
The Blue Bottle Café, which opened in Songdang-ri, Gujwa-eup, Jeju-si in July, is emerging as a must-see tourist destination for visitors arriving in Jeju. Although it is located in a remote village away from other tourist spots in Jeju, the café is constantly bustling to the point that customers must wait in a line. A woman in her 30s who came from Asan commented, “I deliberately booked my accommodation on the eastern side of Jeju because I wanted to visit Blue Bottle,” and purchased items such as the pudding sold only in the Jeju branch of Blue Bottle, as well as a mug and apron bearing the brand’s logo.
Popular retail brands are establishing a series of experience-based spaces in Jeju. Certain food and beverage companies such as Starbucks and Paris Baguette opened stores in Jeju tourist spots and showcased special menu items utilizing local goods, while global corporations in designer goods and automobiles have also joined this trend recently.
▲ Imagined Landscapes Experience Jeju (Photo courtesy of Burberry)
The British designer brand Burberry will open an ultra-large showroom titled “Imagined Landscapes Experience Jeju” near Bangju Church in Andeok-myeon, Seogwipo-si for a month from the 11th of this month. The showroom will be an experience-focused exhibition space with no products on sale. The exterior is covered in mirrors to reflect the nature of Jeju, while the interior will display exhibits such as Burberry coats, media art and augmented reality experience rooms to provide a taste of the brand identity.
Burberry also launched “Thomas Café,” named after its founder Thomas Burberry, for the first time in Korea. This showroom can only be accessed by advance reservation, garnering a fervent response on social media. A Burberry Korea employee commented, “It is an immersive space that embodies the Burberry spirit of demolishing the boundaries between nature and technology, internal and external worlds, reality and imagination, against the backdrop of Jeju’s beautiful environment.
▲ Chanel in Jeju (Photo courtesy of Chanel)
In addition, Chanel operated a pop-up store (temporary store) named “Chanel in Jeju” in The Shilla Jeju over three months from March 19. The pop-up store showcased some products ahead of department stores in Seoul, and as this became known through social media, customers formed a line for the opening time, which was a phenomenon that was generally only seen in Seoul-based department stores. Similarly, the Swiss upcycling brand, which manufactures bags from truck covers, and the Australian cosmetics brand Aesop established stores in Tap-dong, Jeju-si, despite being known for rarely opening branches in department stores.
Hyundai Motors held an exhibition for its concept car “Genesis X” in a seaside café in eastern Jeju from October 29 to the 7th of last month. Using the motif of two lines as the care design element of the Genesis line, Hyundai presented the design direction of its electric car models through the exhibition. A Hyundai Motors employee explained, “We held the exhibition in a space by the beach as opposed to a public space in order to convey the special, high-end image of the Genesis line to customers.”
Retail brands are establishing experience-based stores in Jeju in order to maximize the brand immersion experience. This is because the spread of the consumption habits of valuing experiences over possessions and spreading such values, which is a trend centered around the Gen MZ, is enhancing the immersive nature of brand experiences through their combination with tourism as another form of experience-based consumption.
Jeju is also an appealing location in terms of emphasizing eco-friendly and local-friendly activities as a recent focal point for retail brands. Upon opening its Jeju store, Blue Bottle Coffee Company developed a coffee pudding in collaboration with the Jeju pudding brand Umu and showcased a coffee golden ale with Jeju Beer Brewery, which is also based in Jeju. Furthermore, the brand produced T-shirts and aprons using recycled fabric recovered in Jeju.
With the launch of its showroom, Burberry announced that it has formed a five-year partnership and sponsorship agreement with the non-profit organization “Jeju Olleh.” Burberry was previously criticized for its weak social contribution activities, as it only donated 130,000 won in Korea despite generating sales of over 240 billion won.
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