Retailers roll out holiday gifts before new law

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Retailers roll out holiday gifts before new law

Approximately two months remain until the national Chuseok holiday, but local retailers are already anxious to sell their holiday gift sets, receiving pre-reservations as early as today. It is their last chance to generate major sales before the anticorruption law which bans expensive gifts is implemented.

Chuseok, which falls on Sept. 15, is the last holiday before the so-called Kim Young-ran law goes into effect on Sept. 28. The anticorruption law is expected to prohibit public officials, private school teachers and journalists from being served meals that cost more than 30,000 won ($26) and receiving gifts that cost more than 50,000 won.

However, the newly proposed law has been controversial despite its desirable intent because of its possibility to depress the domestic economy, critics say. The retail industry was picked as one of the main sectors in which major sales are generated from gifts during the holiday season, which in Korea are New Year’s and Chuseok.

According to an industry insider, the majority of holiday gift packages comprised of local specialties, fruits and most representatively hanwoo, or Korean beef, cost more than 100,000 won.

“Agriculture and marine products as well as livestock products are hard to adjust the price,” said an E-Mart spokesperson. “We are trying to come up with diverse product compositions so we can meet the price requirement when the law goes into effect.”

E-Mart, the local discount retailer operated by Shinsegae Group, took the lead by accepting reservations for its special sets beginning today. Since the discount chain began operating in 1993, it is its first time selling holiday gifts as early as July. Sales are kicking off 11 days earlier than last year. Lotte Mart also today kick-started its holiday service, which will last until Aug. 29.

Major department stores are also responding accordingly.

Hyundai Department Store said it will also start to receive reservations 11 days earlier than last year and has increased its inventory by 20 percent. Lotte Department Store and Shinsegae Department Store will start their holiday reservation service on August 2 and 4.

To lure more customers, Lotte Department Store added 50 more items with a discount rate of as high as 50 percent. Shinsegae will also discount its items as much as 70 percent.

The early start of pre-reservation service for holiday gifts follows a recent trend where consumers tend to make purchases when the items are usually offered at a bigger discount compared to when buying starts right before the holiday.

“We noticed that more and more people were buying holiday gift sets much earlier than the actual holiday season,” said a Lotte Department Store spokesperson. “This year’s reservation service will provide the same item at as much as a 50 percent discounted price and will start three days earlier than last year.”

Amid controversy, Korea’s constitutional court will announce the final version of the Kim Young-ran act Thursday. The court will clarify how it will define corrupted actions and apply the 30,000-won and 50,000-won caps.

BY JIN EUN-SOO [jin.eunsoo@joongang.co.kr]

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