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E-Mart and Lotte enter Vietnam

Both major companies battle for control in the burgeoning market

July 18,2016
The Go Vap district near Tan Son Nhat International Airport and part of Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam are widely known as special to the Korean retail industry. This is because despite the fact that there are not many Koreans residing in the area, Korean retail giants are competing fiercely in the region. E-Mart, Lotte Mart and Vietnam’s second largest retailer Big C all have stores competing in a four kilometer (2.5 mile) radius.

E-Mart and Lotte Mart are competing for dominance in the young Vietnamese market. More than half of Vietnam’s population of 93 million is less than thirty years old. The large market industry is also undeveloped in Vietnam, with 75 percent of shopping being done at traditional markets, so there is great potential for growth. This potential attracts big retailers like E-Mart and Lotte Mart. Go Vap is particularly attractive because its residents are middle class, well-earning couples. Lotte Mart established itself in Vietnam in 2008 and has 12 stores, which is the third highest in Vietnam for a retailer. E-Mart leapt into the Vietnamese market last December with its store in Go Vap and it is planning to expand its operations.

The E-Mart store in Go Vap is no different from the ones in Korea. There were the iconic yellow shopping carts as well as No Brand products displayed in the center of the store. No Brand products, modeled after the Japanese company Muji, are relatively cheap because they have no branding and packaging costs, but their quality remains unaffected. E-Mart’s membership card has the phrase “Korea’s No.1 Mart.”

“We have set up our stores to reflect the Korean lifestyle,” Chang Yun-suk of E-Mart said. “The reasonably priced No Brand products are considered Korean luxury products in Vietnam.”

E-Mart also operates an Electro Mart, which specializes in electronic goods, in Vietnam. Even on a weekday afternoon, there are plenty of Vietnamese customers flying drones and enjoying the action figures on show, as well as singing karaoke. E-Mart showcased the Electro Mart when it opened its E-Mart Town last June and it only has them in a few places in Korea, including in Yeongdeungpo in Seoul and in Pangyo, Gyeonggi.

The Korean lifestyle theme is felt in the food available in the area, with Starbucks and Korean pork belly, or samgyeopsal, restaurants in the store. It is unusual to have a Starbucks in a large mart like E-Mart in Vietnam but Shinsegae Group, which operates Starbucks in Korea, persuaded the Vietnamese authorities to have a Starbucks in the store like they do in Korea. Vietnam normally only has Starbucks in hotels, department stores and luxury shopping malls.

On the other hand, the Lotte Mart store in Go Vap, located only three kilometers from its rival E-Mart, has a Vietnamese feel. The store is filled with a thousand types of Vietnam Choice L products, which are developed and produced in Vietnam. Lotte Mart aims to offer products based on the Vietnamese lifestyle. The traditional rice noodles and cookies are all made in Vietnam. At the end of this year, Lotte Mart will release a point system for all of its subsidiaries in Vietnam known as Vietnam L. Point.

Lotte Mart even exports Vietnamese products to Korea. Lotte Mart stores in Korea offer various Vietnamese goods including Vietnamese G7 coffee and hosts a special program onVietnam every summer. This is because Lotte Group is very well established in Vietnam with its many subsidiaries based there, including top restaurant business Lotteria, Lotte Hotel and Lotte Department Stores. Lotte wants to project a positive image of itself to the Vietnamese people.

In fact, the Lotte Mart enjoys so much export success in the Vietnamese market that even Vietnamese politicians and media often jokingly ask their domestic companies, “Do you know how much Vietnamese products Lotte Mart export?”

The E-Mart and Lotter Mart stores differ greatly, but their large size and strategy for entertainment are compatible. The E-Mart store is 10,579 square meters in size while the Lotte Mart store is 13,223 square meters. Both stores welcome between 10,000 and 15,000 customers every day and both have large motorbike/scooter parking lots capable of holding 1,500 such vehicles to cater to Vietnamese customers, whose main method of road transport is either motorbikes or scooters.

Both stores also target couples with children, hence they both have large children’s cafes, each measuring 990 square meters. Lotte Mart’s entertainment stores, including its bowling arena and cinema, cover a considerable area of 6,600 square meters, while E-Mart’s occupies 4,628 square meters.

“Vietnam does not have many amusement parks and cinemas so families often come to large marts to enjoy leisure activities,” Hong Won-sik, general director of Lotte Mart Vietnam, said. “Also, considering the business side, Vietnam has such low consumer prices that it is common to make profits through external store rents rather than from selling fresh products.”


BY LEE HYUN-TAEK [ebusiness@joongang.co.kr]



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