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Convenience stores outrank supermarkets in market share

A customer checks out gift sets for Seollal at a convenience store. (Yonhap)
A customer checks out gift sets for Seollal at a convenience store. (Yonhap)

Korea’s convenience stores’ combined market share outgrew that of local supermarkets for the first time, amid the fast-growing trend to shop in less crowded places due to the coronavirus pandemic, data showed Wednesday.

According to data from the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, sales revenue of three convenience stores -- GS25, CU and 7-Eleven -- came to 30.7 percent last year, following three department stores -- Lotte, Shinsegae and Hyundai. The figure surpassed that of the country’s largest supermarkets, E-mart, Lotte Mart and Home Plus, by 0.3 percentage point for the first time.

Compared to 2020, convenience stores’ sales revenue surged by 6.8 percent last year, whereas major supermarkets saw their sales decrease by 2.3 percent.

Data showed convenience stores have seen their sales grow in ready-made meals and instant food. On the other hand, sales of major supermarkets have plummeted in most product categories including home appliances and food.

Until 2019, major supermarkets have took up the lion share of the market, followed by department stores and convenience stores, the ministry said.

But with the COVID-19, many customers have turned away from crowded supermarkets where the risk of contracting the virus is higher, an industry source said. Instead, they have started to use less-occupied convenience stores nearby, buying in small quantities, it added.

Lee Su-bin, a 32-year-old Seoulite, says she has mostly shopped for groceries and other products online or at convenience stores since the COVID-19 outbreak.

“Unlike before, when there were only limited products such as ramen and snacks, I can buy all kinds of meal kits, sauces, seasoning, and necessity items at the convenience stores. So I don’t really feel the need to go to major supermarkets,” Lee added.

Meanwhile, retail giant Lotte Group recently announced it has completed a deal to acquire a 100 percent stake of Ministop, taking control of some 2,600 branches. Taking the latest deal into account, market insiders estimate the market share of convenience stores will sharply increase in the years to come.

By Byun Hye-jin (hyejin2@heraldcorp.com)
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