The Seoul Metropolitan Government is considering imposing an administrative order to suspend the business of Chanel boutiques in the capital, citing its actions could contribute to a possible COVID-19 infection cluster.
"We are well aware of this issue and we have been monitoring the situation. We are reviewing whether to put out an administrative order," Na Baeq-ju, general director of the civil health bureau at the local administration, said.
Concern has arisen over another COVID-19 infection cluster after long queues formed in front of Chanel boutiques in department stores here between May 11 and 13.
This followed news that the French fashion brand would raise prices for its goods here by up to 25 percent, following markups of 7 percent to 17 percent in Europe, Saturday. Chanel officially confirmed the price change for its luxury goods here, Thursday.
Prices for products on Chanel's official Korean website were removed Sunday, leading many customers to assume a hike was in the works, and many people immediately hurried to stores to purchase the luxury goods. Chanel has not hinted on whether it was going to increase prices here.
Both Chanel and local department stores did not expect hundreds of people to gather in front of the fashion brand's boutiques following a coronavirus outbreak the previous weekend in the multicultural Itaewon district that occurred just after the country loosened regulations on social distancing.
An average of 20 to 40 people formed queues in front of department stores in Seoul starting at 6:00 a.m., four-and-a-half hours before they opened. On Tuesday alone, 222 customers were waiting in a line at 11:30 a.m., only an hour after the boutique opened shop.
Customers were rushing into the building when the doors opened, with many improperly wearing facial masks while talking to each other at a close distance.
A department store official said customers waited an hour-and-a-half to three hours to get to the boutiques and there was the possibility that the coronavirus could have been spread if one person in the queue was infected.
"We did not expect such a large number of customers would gather in front of the building from early morning to buy Chanel bags. We were very worried about customers not practicing proper social distancing while waiting in the queue. Chanel is to blame for creating such chaos," another department store official said under the condition of anonymity.
A potential further problem is that some people came from outer Seoul to purchase the luxury bags as boutiques outside the capital had run out of stocks.
If one of these people was infected by the virus at a Chanel store in Seoul, they could have spread COVID-19 around the region in which they live.
Department stores have placed staff in front of the building doors to check people's body temperatures and reminded them to wear facial masks.
Chanel also said it has "incorporated a queue management system providing enough personal space within the boutiques and minimizing the formation of long lines in front of stores entrances."
"We kindly asked our clients to put their name and phone number on a list so that they will be informed via text message when they will be able to enter the boutique as a means to prevent overcrowding in and out of the stores," a Chanel official said.
source: Reuters & The Korea Times