Korea Inc targets 'golden singles' amid consumer slump

Wed Oct 29, 2014 5:18pm EDT
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By Sohee Kim and Joyce Lee

SEOUL (Reuters) - As South Korea's population rapidly ages, makers of consumer goods from washing machines to packaged foods and pet products are increasingly targeting people like Lee Dong-soo, who is 34 and lives alone with his cat.

Spending by so-called "golden singles" - young unmarrieds living alone - who splash out more on food and other goods, is a bright spot for an economy plagued by sluggish consumer demand that has lagged overall growth for most of the past two years.

"Compared with married friends, I spend considerable money on food, shopping and dabbling in new hobbies," said Lee, a professional singer living in Seoul's trendy Gangnam district.

The South Korean population is the world's fastest-aging, and younger people are getting married later or not at all. The average age of first-time marriages last year was 32.2 for men and 29.6 for women, up from 27.8 and 24.8 in 1990.

Similar demographic trends have been taking place in many developed nations, but they have been particularly rapid in Asia's fourth largest economy, whose companies are proving to be creative in their response.

To woo consumers like Lee, Samsung Electronics in August launched a "Slim Style" refrigerator that is narrower and taller than ordinary fridges and is "optimized for the lifestyle of single-person households", said Koo-yeun Choi, a Samsung senior vice president.

CJ Cheiljedang Corp, South Korea's largest food manufacturer, is expanding a singles-focused marketing strategy launched last year for its prepared foods business.

"We hold promotion events and open cooking classes for singletons, especially to office workers and college students," said Kim Tai-joon, CJ Cheiljedang's executive vice president.   Continued...

A woman shops at a store selling small-sized products for a single-person household, at a department store in Seoul October 28, 2014.  REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji