For retailers, Lunar New Year can’t come faster

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For retailers, Lunar New Year can’t come faster

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Lotte Department Store began accepting preorders for Lunar New Year gift sets on Monday, offering up to a 70 percent discount. [NEWSIS]

It’s not even 2017 yet, but discount chains here are already preparing for Lunar New Year, which falls on Jan. 28.

In Korea, where the holiday is known as Seollal, gift sets containing a wide variety of goods - from fruits such as apples and pears to even household necessities like toothbrushes and toothpaste - are popular gift options.

This year, amid a prolonged economic slump and deflated spending due to a recently implemented antigraft law, retailers are pulling out all the stops to attract price-conscious customers.

And they’re doing it early. E-Mart, a discount chain under the retail giant Shinsegae Group, launched preorders on Thursday, five days earlier than last year. The retailer said the portion of Seollal gift sets taken up by preorders has been increasing continuously over the past five years, from a mere 1.2 percent in 2012 to 21.4 percent early this year.

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As a result, E-Mart has increased its preorder inventory by 20 percent. To draw in more customers, the retailer has also rolled out incremental promotions where the discount is higher the earlier the order is placed.

“Price-conscious customers are purchasing holiday gifts when they can get them at lower prices,” an E-Mart spokesperson said.

Those who preorder their holiday gift sets through Dec. 17 will receive a gift certificate worth 10 percent of their purchase. Between Dec. 18 and 28, that rate goes down to 7 percent and then to 5 percent from Dec. 28 to Jan. 11.

“This year, we expect the portion of preorders to reach 25 percent,” said Choi Hoon-hak, a marketing team leader at E-Mart.

Rival Lotte Mart kicked off its preorders on Monday, a week earlier than last year. The preorder period will last until Jan. 13. Lotte Mart, too, has increased its preorder inventory by 13 percent.

The retailer has also tailored its gift sets to match the guidelines of an antigraft law passed earlier this year that bans public servants, journalists and teachers from receiving gifts worth over 50,000 won ($40).

Lotte Mart is selling sets of galbi, or beef ribs, considered a premium gift in Korea, for 50,000 won, a first for the retailer. While previous sets included 3 kilograms (7 pounds) or more of meat, the new set contains 2 kilograms.

Lotte Mart said it has also increased its supply of gift sets worth 50,000 won or less, from 43.7 percent of inventory last year to 54.1 percent this year. It has also redesigned its catalog of gift sets to categorize based on price rather than product type as in the past.

“We are going to maintain at least 50 percent of the 50,000 won or cheaper gift sets portion during future holiday seasons,” Lotte Mart said in a release.

Homeplus also launched preorders on Thursday and will take them through Jan. 15. It, too, has expanded the inventory of 50,000 won-or-less gift sets to 85 percent from 77 percent.

Homeplus said 28 percent of gift sets sold this year were through preorders, up from 7 percent three years ago. The company expects the number to reach 40 percent for the upcoming Seollal.


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

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