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Lotte balks at Homeplus chicken jibe

Retailer considers action against rival over using comparative advertising


Two of Korea’s biggest supermarket chains are at loggerheads over advertisements for super-cheap chicken.

Homeplus, the country’s second-biggest supermarket chain, began selling raw chicken for as low as 1,000 won ($0.89) Thursday. Securing a total of 200,000 raw chickens, its 122 branches nationwide are selling up to 250 chickens per day, limiting purchases to two chickens per customer.

The week-long event, which ends Wednesday, was part of the company’s campaign to celebrate its 12th anniversary. The firm has been selling items ranging from vegetables and meat to LED TVs and refrigerators at knock-down prices since March 3.

But No. 3 supermarket chain Lotte Mart has criticized the way the deals have been advertised to consumers.

Lotte Mart objects Homeplus’ use of the adjective “tong-kkeun” ― meaning deep discounts in Korean ― which Lotte uses to promote its discounted products.

Homeplus said in a press release and on ads in its stores that the deal on its raw chicken was kinder than the “tong-kkeun” chicken ― over which Lotte was accused of abusing its market position.

Offended by its competitor’s marketing, Lotte Mart said it is considering measures to deal with the situation.

“We’re still discussing the subject and we’ve not come up with an exact measure as of now,” said a representative of Lotte Mart, adding that delivering a letter of protest or filing a petition were among its options.

In response, Homeplus said the comparative advertisement was only used as a marketing tactic and that it had yet to receive an official request or statement on the issue from Lotte Mart.

Last year, Lotte Mart stirred major controversy when it started its venture of selling ultra-cheap fried chicken, labeled “tong-kkeun chicken,” at 5,000 won per chicken, inviting criticism from smaller chicken stores.

Due to the protests, the distribution chain, owned by Lotte Shopping, bowed to pressure from small eateries, politicians and civic groups later in December, ending the short-lived venture.

“As there has been criticism that the Lotte Mart fried chicken is impeding fair competition with small eateries, we have decided to stop sales of the fried chicken,” said Noh Byung-yong, representative director of Lotte Mart at a meeting of Co-prosperity Committee earlier in December.

By Cho Ji-hyun (sharon@heraldcorp.com)
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