Holiday gift prices suit rich and poor

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Holiday gift prices suit rich and poor

The Chuseok holiday gift market this year is showing signs of recessionary pressure, with strong sales of both low-priced and expensive gifts, but mediocre sales for prices in the middle.

According to industry sources yesterday, retailers significantly increased the proportion of low-priced gift sets on sale compared to last year.

Homeplus, the nation’s second largest discount chain, said that more than half of its entire holiday gift products are priced under 30,000 won ($26.58) due to the economic slowdown.

E-Mart, the largest discount chain, increased its rock-bottom priced gifts by 15 percent. When it comes to gift sets of dried yellow corvina, popular as Chuseok presents, the price range is from 300,000 won to 40,000 won. This is the first time E-Mart has sold the sets so cheaply.

One of Lotte Mart’s low-priced gift sets were sets of apples with stalks still on them, which sell for 50,000 won, 10 percent cheaper than sets without stalks.

But in a sign of the unevenness of the slowdown, and the polarization of Korea’s economy, pricey gift sets are doing better this year than last.

Lotte Department Stores introduced “Eco-friendly Luxury Hanwoo Beef from the Eight Provinces of Korea,” limited to 1,000 sets at 650,000 won. They are selling well.

Galleria Department Store is offering a “Sweet Gift Set” of mushrooms and tea at 950,000 won and Shinsegae Department Store is selling Hanwoo rib sets at 210,000 won as well as quality apple and pear sets at 120,000 won.

The polarization in the prices of Chuseok gifts is a strategy of food manufacturers as well.

Seaweed sets, typically a cheap gift, have been upgraded this year.

CJ CheilJedang is selling a seaweed gift set as cheap as 9,000 won and a new luxury seaweed set at 160,000 won.

Prices of cooking oil sets range from 5,900 won to 32,700 won. Spam sets can be as cheap as 10,000 won or as steep as 70,000 won.

You can buy a Dongwon Tuna Gift Set, a popular standard at Chuseok time, for 20,000 won. But the limited edition Dongwon Tuna’s Belly Set will set you back 120,000 won - and wow the relatives back home.

“Although consumption has slowed due to the economic doldrums, the number of consumers who wish to purchase luxury products made of superlative ingredients is increasing,” said Nah Jae-hoon, publicist at Lotte Department Store. “As food manufacturers and retailers prepare gift products according to the demand, middle price gift products have disappeared.”

By Kim Jung-yoon [kjy@joongang.co.kr]

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