Lotte irks rivals with plan to open over Chuseok

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Lotte irks rivals with plan to open over Chuseok

Lotte Department Store will stay open for most of the five-day Chuseok holiday that begins Saturday, only closing its two stores and six outlets on Sunday, the actual day of the harvest festival, it said yesterday.

Analysts said the retailer is loath to miss cashing in on an expected influx of Chinese tourists over the vacation, which overlaps with China’s mid-autumn festival and seven-day National Day celebrations.

Their numbers are forecast to swell this year amid rising tensions with Japan over the disputed Diaoyu Islands, known as Senkaku in Japan, with Beijing allegedly giving the order to scale back large-scale trips to Japan.

Major large discount chains and Super Supermarkets (SSM) will also open as usual over the holiday, sparking criticism from workers.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Korean Federation of Private Service Workers’ Unions held a rally in front of Lotte Department Store’s main branch urging it to take two days off during the holiday.

This year, Koreans enjoy an extended vacation as National Foundation Day falls on Wednesday, serving for most as a welcome bookend to Chuseok.

Industry observers say Shinsegae and Hyundai department stores are also upset by Lotte’s decision, which they see as unfair given that all three are suffering from sagging sales due to the economic slowdown.

According to the Korea Tourism Organization, the number of inbound Chinese tourists is expected to exceed 100,000, and the amount of money they will spend during the period is expected to reach $200 million.

Lotte, which attracts hordes of Chinese to its key branches in Sogong-dong, Gimpo Airport and Paju, Gyeonggi, said it checked with employees before arranging to stay open.

“We sought the consent of employees at the six outlets and two department store branches to make sure they agreed to just having one day off,” said Park Min-ah, a public relations deputy section chief at Lotte Department Store.

Meanwhile, major discount chain stores and SSMs said they will not close their doors for any of the vacation days.

E-Mart, the nation’s largest discount chain, will fully open its stores nationwide for the five days, much as it did over the Lunar New Year’s holiday earlier this year. It closed for one day over Chuseok last year.

Lotte Mart will also continue operating, but with less staff, it said.

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

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