E-commerce Meets Chusok

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E-commerce Meets Chusok

Chusok, a holiday steeped in tradition, has met the 21st Century and found a worthy match. From Sept. 9 through the 13, many people will be traveling across Korea to their hometown for a family get-together. And, as any self-respecting Korean knows,it's utterly important to come bearing gifts.

This is where giftware companies step in. They offer pre-packaged goods such as cuts of 'Kalbi' (similar to the concept of U.S. Omaha steaks) fruit, or ginseng baskets, ideal gifts by Korea standards.

With the advent of e-commerce, giftware companies have gone on-line, as have their customers. Some venture capitalists have forgone traditional bricks and mortar stores for virtual storefronts. This year alone, about 1,000 Korean firms started Internet-based shopping malls.

Until recently, projected buying habits and cyberspace dreams, not hard data, drew these venture capitalists. Now, the numbers are coming in and they look good.

Internet-based shopping malls, or dot-coms, such as Shinsaegae Cybermall, Hansol CS Club, Samsung Mall, and Lotte.com reported record high sales during the Chusok buying season, a time period that starts about a month before Chusok. In some cases, the increase in sales is eight times what was posted last year.

Cybermall's manager, Park Jang-gyun, attributes the success of the Internet and the change in buying habits to some obvious advantages: "With an on-line purchase, netizens avoid the hassle of crowded shopping malls. Gifts can be delivered straight to their hometown. It helps make the Chusok experience a stress-free homecoming." Netizens are fluent Internet users.

The most popular purchase at Shinsaegae Cybermall (www.cybermall.co.kr) is beef cuts, such as the 100,000 won galbi set. Between Aug. 21st and Sept. 5th, the company reported a record-high earning of 0.4 billion won. During the same period last year, sales were 1.3 billion won.

Gucci wallets, purses and lingerie outsold kalbi at LG E-Shop (ww.lgeshop.co.kr). The company reported Chusok sales of 1.7 billion won, compared to 0.2 billion won in 1999.

Another unusual item to "click in" sales was songyi mushrooms. Even with a hefty price tag of 300,000 won for the basic songyi basket, Hansol CS Club (www.csclub.com) sold 400 packages of these mushrooms. Sales at CS Club reached 11.3 billion won during the Choosuk buying season, compared to 6 billion won last year.

Some other Internet shopping malls are the Samsung Mall (www.samsungmall.co.kr) and E-Hyundai (www.e-hyundai.com).

by Kim Tae-jin

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