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South Korea retail conglomerate opened a new format for its Emart brand, called the SSG Food Market, in Seoul.

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Europe-based buying alliance EMD has announced that South Korea-based Homeplus will join the organisation. EMD said Homeplus will initially work with EMD on the ‘sourcing of private label products’, but noted there is scope for ‘the option of cooperation in other areas of intercontinental cooperation’.

Homeplus to expand EMD’s global membership

Following the addition of Homeplus, EMD will have members in 20 countries, and will mark its third partner outside Europe, adding to Australia-based Woolworths Ltd and New Zealand-based Progressive Enterprises. Homeplus generated a turnover of US$9.7bn in 2017 and operates 752 stores across hypermarkets, supermarkets and convenience stores.

Partnership to provide opportunities for private label suppliers

Commenting on the partnership, Homeplus’s chief executive, Lim Il-Soon, said: “We cannot imagine a better cooperation partner than the successful and worldwide well-connected EMD. The close cooperation in the private label business opens for us new and interesting purchasing channels in Europe with an immediate benefit for our customers. Additional growth opportunities will also result for our South Korean suppliers, for which new sales channels in the large distribution area of the EMD members will be made available.

 

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The city of Seoul officially launched a zero-fee digital payment system to ease the burden on small and medium sized businesses.

The new QR code payment system

The zero-fee digital payment system is accessible as an additional feature on existing digital wallet apps such as Naver Pay, Payco, Korea Smart Card and BC Card. Kakao Pay, South Korea’s most widely used mobile payment service operator, did not sign up to the agreement as its platform is not compatible with Zero Pay.

To pay for the goods, customers just need to open the app, scan the store’s QR code and type the amount they need to pay. The money will then be transferred from the customer’s bank account to the seller.

This new payment system charges little to no transaction fee – up to 0.5%, depending on the store sales. This is considerably lower than the 2.2% that credit card companies charge.

A measure to protect small businesses

According to a 2017 government survey, more than 80% of transactions in South Korea were made using credit cards. Some shop owners have to pay more than 30% of their monthly sales as transaction fees.

The mayor of Seoul, Park Won-soon who is championing the Zero Pay system, said in a statement that “There is no hope for our economy if the self-employed, who make 30 percent of the country’s revenue, do not do well. The new payment app should help the self-employed and small business owners because they will not have to pay transaction fees.”

So far 16,750 stores in the city have signed up for the new program. Emart24 and Ministop Korea are among the participating franchises. There are plans to roll out the piloting program to other cities such as Busan, Incheon and South Gyeongsang.

 

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South Korean’s largest retail chain Emart snatched up US food retailer Good Food Holdings for $275mn.

Emart’s first foreign acquisition

California-based Good Food operates 24 stores under three banners: Bristol Farms, Lazy Acres and Metropolitan Market. With this acquisition, Emart will gain 12 Bristol Farm’s stores, five Lazy Acre’s and seven Metropolitan Market stores. This is Emart’s first foreign acquisition. Good Food’s executive board will be retained.

We are not planning to make any changes in the management of Good Food Holdings,” said an Emart spokesman. “Nothing in the operations of the three grocery chains will change in the immediate future.”

Break into the US market

The acquisition of Good Food sees Emart break into the US market in a big way. It intends to provide the retailer with stability and allows it to expand operations in North America. In October, Emart made an announcement to open a premium grocery store, called PK Market, in Los Angeles next year. PK Market will be in direct competition with a nearby Whole Foods Market store.

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South Korea’s FTC (Fair Trade Commission) approved a set of voluntary rules agreed by convenience store operators to better protect struggling franchisees.

Minimum distance between stores

Five members of the Korea Association of Convenience Store Industry, CU, GS25, 7-ELEVEN, MINISTOP, C-SPACE and Emart24, came up with a voluntary agreement to curb excessive competition.

A key centerpieceof the agreement is that stores of rival brands should be at least 50 metres away from each other. This is the first time the convenience stores have set the minimum distance since 2000.

Move to ease market saturation

FTC’s approval will see the voluntary agreement to be applied to to 96% (38,000) of convenience stores nationwide.

The number of convenience stores has risen sharply to at least 40,000 last year, driven by an increase of single-member and two-people households.

Kim Sang-jo, chairman of the FTC, said the regulations could ease saturation and prevent reckless new openings in areas where there are already many existing stores.

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This in-depth guide to South Korea explores the key trends in grocery retail and the growth strategies of the leading retailers in the country.

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