Korea’s ugly Black Friday
A major online discount event by domestic retailers mimicking America’s Black Friday deals ended mostly in public scorn. Local online shopping malls got together to launch their own Black Friday on Dec. 12. Theye were driven by envy of the splash the U.S. shopping extravaganza after Thanksgiving has made among Korean shoppers. Ten major online retailers that included retail household names like Lotte, Hyundai, 11th Street, CJ Shopping, and Galleria joined in the sales event with the slogan: “The Day When Prices in Korea Are Halved.” Their ads said prices could go down as much as 70 percent. But consumers discovered the slogan was nothing more than words.
The Canada Goose outerwear on 11th Street was offered at 50 percent off, but they were sold out in less than seven minutes because just 36 items were available. The 101 available Paul Smith scarves were sold out in less than three minutes. Items were snatched up in a few minutes after they were posted throughout the day. Access was denied to CJ and other sites due to heavy traffic. Many also were enraged by one company’s claim that it handed out 150,000 coupons for any item at half price. It turned out the maximum discount rate was only 10,000 won ($9.20). Companies were busy congratulating themselves for the successful event, saying they took in 150 billion won - beyond the expected 100 billion won. They paid no heed to the cascade of consumer complaints.
Shopping no longer has frontiers. The era of mega-sized monopoly margins is over. Those who try to cheat consumers for profits will be shunned, as evidenced by the growing migration of shoppers to foreign websites for direct purchases. How Korean retailers attempted to lure Korean shoppers back to home turf was embarrassingly artless. Excited by the immediate result, the industry said it will organize the same promotion next year. Of course, no one can get it right the first time. But retailers must stick to the fundamentals of their business - offering reliable products at reasonable prices and being honest with consumers. The industry must remember it is dealing with some of the world’s shrewdest shoppers.
JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 16, Page 38