중앙데일리

Lotte Mart turns tail in chicken sale

Dec 14,2010
People line up to get their bucket of 5,000 won Lotte Mart chicken at the retail’s branch in Yeongdeungpo, western Seoul, yesterday behind a sign that says chickens will be sold only until Dec. 15. [YONHAP]

The Great Chicken War ended after a mere five days, with Lotte Mart folding its tent and giving the field back to the franchises.

Even as eager customers waited in long queues, Lotte Mart canceled its year-long offer of cheap chicken - 5,000 won ($4.37) a bucket, one-third the price charged at regular outlets - and said the last day of sales would take place on Dec. 15.

Since its debut Dec. 9, demand for the chicken has been overpowering. Each of Lotte Mart’s 82 outlets sold out its daily stock of 300 to 400 chickens in two hours or less. That customers had to place orders in the morning and pick the chicken up in the evening didn’t dampen demand.

The Davids in the war - franchises and mom-and-pops - have been protesting even before Lotte fired up the deep fryers. On Dec. 8, shop owners from an association of local chicken and duck eateries gathered in protest at Lotte Mart’s Yeongdeungpo outlet after early news tipoffs.

Since then, impassioned protests by small business owners and the Korea Franchise Association’s (KFA)threats of formal complaint to the Fair Trade Commission put pressure on Lotte Mart.

With Lotte Mart’s sudden capitulation, the franchises are celebrating. “We welcome the decision by Lotte Mart to cease their chicken sales,” said Ahn Seok-young of the KFA.

Lotte Mart denied that it was giving in to pressure and stressed that its decision came out of consideration for corporate social responsibility.

“We decided to stop the offer after considering the fact that it could threaten the very existence of small chicken businesses,” said Jeong Won-heon of Lotte Mart.

But the franchises and mom-and-pop shops may have suffered a serious wound in the war. The six-day tussle raised the question of whether franchises are overcharging for chicken.

During the National Assembly’s October review of the Fair Trade Commission, suspicion over price-fixing in chicken franchises was mentioned because the price of a fried chicken, often above 15,000 won, was so much more than the price of raw chicken, which was 2,985 won in September.

In the end, it was the consumers that got the short end of the stick.

Jung geun-sook, a housewife in her late forties who stood in line at Lotte Mart’s Yeongdeungpo outlet to buy chicken yesterday morning, said that this was her second time braving the lines. “I heard that they’re not selling the chicken any more,” she said, changing her grip on the shopping bag. “As soon as [fried chicken] became affordable, they take it away from us. Nobody’s standing up for the consumer.”


By Lee Jung-yoon [joyce@joongang.co.kr]



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