The Korea Herald


Supermarket chains in low-price TV-set war

By Korea Herald

Published : Dec. 22, 2011 - 16:05

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Korea’s TV set market, long-dominated by local electronics giants Samsung and LG, has been heating up recently with the entry of new players ― supermarket chains.

Amid their fierce pricing competition, the nation’s top three retailers, E-Mart, Homeplus and Lotte Mart have marketed their own brand of TV sets at almost half the existing prices.

Lotte Mart, the No. 3 retailer, on Wednesday launched a 32-inch LED TV at 499,000 won ($430), up to 42 percent cheaper than existing products with similar specifications.

The first batch of 2,000 units sold out in just an hour and a half after sales started at Lotte’s 87 outlets nationwide.

The pace was unprecedented, industry watchers said, exceeding the previous record of market leader E-Mart, which sold some 4,800 LED TV sets with the same price over two days in October.
Customers purchase LED TV sets at a Lotte Mart outlet in Youngdeungpo, western Seoul, on Wednesday. (Yonhap News) Customers purchase LED TV sets at a Lotte Mart outlet in Youngdeungpo, western Seoul, on Wednesday. (Yonhap News)

“Among the cheaper LED TVs launched by top three retailers, we are sure that our product is the best in terms of specifications,” said a Lotte official.

Unlike the E-Mart TV, which was produced by Taiwan-based TPV, Lotte teamed up with a local TV maker Moneual and its full-HD display panel is also provided by LG Display.

The company plans to sell an additional 3,000 TVs in February starting with customers who failed to get one this time and have made a reservation.

No. 2 Homeplus also introduced its low-priced 32-inch LCD TV priced at 399,000 won on Thursday. Considering the growing demand for cheaper TV sets, the company launched a cheaper LCD TV instead of an LED TV.

Homeplus, owned by U.K.’s Tesco, plans to sell 2,000 units at its 125 locations nationwide and online shopping malls and the after-sales service is available at any repair center for Daewoo Electronics.

“Ahead of the full-fledged beginning of digital broadcasting at the end of next year, we plan to launch diverse TV sets to meet consumer needs,” said Lee Jin-woo, a Homeplus official.

E-Mart, which is believed to have first rekindled the TV competition, also said it will start the sales of another batch of cheaper TV sets in January.

Samsung and LG, which make up more than 90 percent of the local TV set market, have yet to show any special reaction to the entry of cheaper products.

As they are predicted to launch cheaper LED TVs next year as well, industry sources predicted the cheaper pricing competition could get fiercer in the coming years.

The “ultra-cheap” products offered by major retailers had been criticized for threatening smaller vendors. But when it comes to their half-priced TV sets that compete with top brands, customers also send positive reviews.

With digital broadcasting expected to drive up the demands for digital TV sets, some businesses such as hospitals and lodging facilities are likely to turn to low-priced products, sources said.

By Lee Ji-yoon (