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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.

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Coupang plans to launch a 'Thai Mall' flagship store on its online platform to sell a variety of exclusive Thai products, including food, beverages, lifestyle, furniture, pet and spa products. 

Aiming at THB 200m (US$6m) in 2019

Thailand has been promoting Thai products on Coupang since August, with 899 SKUs, mostly food and beverage items. Thai Commerce Minister Sontirat Sontijirawong said the online platform will help accelerate export volumes to South Korea by 7% in 2019. The two parties agreed to expand cooperation and sell more Thai products on the platform, aiming at THB 200m (US$6m)next year.

About Coupang

Started off as a daily deals website, Coupang is now the largest online marketplace in South Korea. It aims to fulfil its customers' needs by offering a wide range of products at low prices and guaranteed next day delivery.

To find out more about Coupang's priorities, please click here.

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7-Eleven is trialling an unmanned locker service called Seven Locker in Seoul, South Korea.

Profit-generating initiative

The service is part of company’s initiatives to diversify operations and generate more profits for its convenience stores.

The lockers will be set up near tourist attractions and entertainment areas where there is demand for such services among locals and visitors. Depending on the size of the space, storage fees will range from KRW2,000 (US$1.8) to KRW4,000 for a four-hour period.

The plan going forward

The trial starts with two stores in Seoul’s Hongdae and Jongno districts, with another eight to open by end of 2018. Further 100 lockers are planned to be placed at 7-Eleven stores across the country in the first half of 2019. The service is to be extended to all key stores.

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South Korea’s biggest ecommerce company Coupang received an additional $2bn from SoftBank’s Vision Fund to cement its online market leadership.

Rapid growth and growth drivers

This latest investment follows the initial $1bn investment that SoftBank injected into Coupang in 2015. The online retailer, founded in 2013, has seen its revenue more than doubled over the past two years and is to reach $5bn this year. With a growth rate of 70%, Coupang has since grown to become the biggest player in South Korea’s ecommerce market.

The rapid growth has been driven by investment in logistics and speedier delivery services. Coupang’s Rocket Delivery service promises delivery within 24 hours. The more recent Dawn Delivery service allows orders to be placed as late as midnight with deliveries that arrive by 7 a.m. Half of South Korea's 51 million people have downloaded its mobile app and many Coupang customers shop on its platform more than 50 times a year. 

Currently loss making but with huge potential

Coupang's growth has come at a cost. The company reported operating loss of $565m last year. The $2bn SoftBank’s investment will help Coupang maintain its business model. "The primary job of this investment is to help us become a deeper part of customers' lives," Bom Kim, Coupang's founder, said in an interview. SoftBank also commented that “We believe the company is well-positioned to lead the Korean ecommerce market, with significant platform opportunities ahead given its data, payments and logistics advantage”. 

Competition ahead

Coupang faces competition from rival upstarts like Ticket Monster and more established retailers such as Emart and Lotte, both made announcements this year to beef up their online presence.

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Mobile payments at convenience stores in South Korea have more than doubled this year.

Exponential growth

The percentage of mobile payments out of total transactions at convenience stores reached 3.5% this year, compared to 1.9% last year and 1% in 2015. The growth has been at exponential pace.

Convenience chain operators in South Korea adopted the mobile payment system in 2011, but the service only started to take off last year due to greater use of smartphones and expansion of mobile settlement.

Various mobile payment tools available

There are a number of mobile payment tools available to shoppers in South Korea. Using South Korea’s top convenience store chain CU as an example, it allows customers to use Samsung Electronics’ Samsung Pay and 19 other payment tools at its stores. Samsung Pay accounted for 85.5% of CU’s mobile transactions, Kakaopay 4% and LG Pay 2.8%.

Retailers in South Korea have also been putting great efforts to develop their own mobile payment platforms as more customers turn to using mobile payments at convenience stores.

South Korea has the fourth-highest smartphone penetration in the world, about seven in 10 own a smartphone.

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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.

We've developed a single, universal methodology for calculating food and consumer goods retail data, supported by our programme of primary and secondary research. This makes Datacentre the most reliable and robust source available for data of this type. 

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