Tuesday, May 26, 2009

More on Convenience Stores

In my post on the growth of convenience stores (at the expense of mom and pop stores), I noted at the end that it was only in 1993 that the first Emart opened and traditional markets began to lose their popularity. I used this as a topic in an adult class and all of the students in their thirties or older recalled shopping only at traditional markets (or mom and pop stores) when they were younger, which made me curious about how this change occurred. This article gives a few (perhaps unclear) figures:
The Asian economic crisis also helped trigger a reshaping of the retail sector, which saw the rapid growth of hypermarkets, chain supermarkets and convenience stores. Korean consumers traditionally buy at so-called 'mom-pop' stores and traditional wet markets, which account for a 72 per cent market share. Visitors to Korea would easily notice that retail shops are smaller than might be expected for the size of the Korean economy, which ranked among the world's top 20 biggest economies. Nine out of ten retail shops had fewer than two employees, with an average selling space of ten metres. The sales volume of the small stores accounted for around 80 per cent of the total market in 1995, while the share of modern retail formats such as department stores was only about 14 per cent.
So it seems to be saying that markets and mom and pop stores accounted for 80% of retail sales in 1995, but that number dropped to 72% by the time the article's was written (2003, though figures are dated no later than 2001). An article(pdf) from 2004 (using 2003 figures) has lower figures:
Traditional markets (including wet markets and 'mom and pop' type stores) still account for the majority of food retail sales in Korea (67 per cent), however market share of hypermarkets and supermarkets is growing. Traditional wet markets in Korea take the form of large wholesale markets, which tend to specialise in fresh produce.

The wholesale markets serve as the supply for the ‘mom and pop’ type stores. The number of conventional markets dropped to 1,100 in 2000 from 1,500 in 1996, and has continued to decrease in the following years. This is partly due to the fact that owning a car is now quite common for most Korean families, and since the economic crisis consumers are willing to drive to a hypermarket store despite the distance, to obtain lower prices and one-stop shopping
As for convenience stores, this book tells us that "In May 1989, 7-Eleven opened its first store in Korea to become the first foreign convenience store, followed by Lawson and Circle K." The first source above continues:
Introduced in 1988, convenience stores posted robust growth rates to reach over 2,000 in 1998. By the end of 2001, the total number of convenience stores in Korea reached 3,753. Leading players in the sector are LG 25, Family Mart (owned by the Bokwang group) and 7-Eleven Korea. Although growth slowed down due to the economic malaise, Korea's convenience stores are expected to widen its reach and replace the traditional mom-and-pop stores.
Another article provides figures from July 2002:
The Korea Herald has reported that there have been more than 800 new convenience stores opened in South Korea during the first half of 2002, a better than 70-percent increase over the number opened during the same period last year. The total number of convenience stores in South Korea now is just shy of 4,600.
Thus almost twice as many stores as there were in July 2002 have opened since then. So it took ten years to get to 2000 stores, another four years to reach 4,600, and seven years later there are over 12,000. This article talks about the presence of the Japanese franchise Family Mart in Korea, and its attempts to spread overseas:
The retailer has been expanding aggressively in Asia, and it has about 4,200 stores in South Korea and 2,300 in Taiwan.

It will be the first major Japanese convenience store chain to enter Vietnam, as FamilyMart and rivals like Seven-Eleven look overseas amid a gloomy outlook in Japan due to an ageing population and a saturated market with over 40,000 stores.
Korea would need around 17,000 stores or so to reach the saturation rate that Japan has, though in this article a spokesperson for the convenience store association "anticipates some 20,000 convenience stores will be operating here by 2015." There seem to have been some ideas for expanding stores on 'Korean' soil back in 2002:
Bokwang Family Mart Co. will open two convenience stores in Mount Geumgang, North Korea, Thursday, the convenience-store chain company said Wednesday. The two convenience stores [are] the first of their kind ever opened in the socialist country[.]
I doubt they're open these days.

Tom Coyner looks at the history of Korean retailing over the past two decades here.

1 comment:

brent said...

I know I prefer using a chain convenience store because I have to worry less about getting expired or extremely expired foods and other goods. In Korea in general, you still need to watch out for that anywhere.