Retailers dropping cost of Lunar New Year sets

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Retailers dropping cost of Lunar New Year sets


From left, Hyundai Department Store’s Myeongin Myeongchon “Miso Hab” set, 48,000 won (40 dollar), Lotte Department Store’s lobster and abalone set, 49,900 won, and Shinsegae Department Store’s set of Persian apple mangoes, 50,000 won. [HYUNDAI DEPARTMENT STORE, LOTTE DEPARTMENT STORE, SHINSEGAE DEPARTMENT STORE]

Retailers are trying to make the best out of the Lunar New Year season, despite weakened consumer sentiment from a sluggish economy. It’s also the first New Year’s season since the implementation of the Kim Young-ran act, which restricts gifts to public officials.

Apart from the strategy of expanding the line-up of low-priced gift sets of ham, cooking oil or shampoo, retailers are adding premium goods whose prices hardly ever went below 50,000 won ($41), the maximum amount acceptable for gifts to officials.

Lotte Department Store said Monday it will offer a gift box of two lobsters and eight abalones for 49,900 won. This is the cheapest lobster gift set sold among domestic department stores. A partnership with lobster importer AsianKitchen, which delivered products from overseas suppliers to Lotte, is keeping the price down. “The idea was to bring in high-class food ingredients for the Lunar New Year holidays when families get together and cook at home,” said Nam Ki-dae, manager for Lotte Department Store’s food department.

Rival Shinsegae Department Store is lowering costs for premium gift baskets by using fresh ingredients from overseas instead of Korea. The list of products composed of imported fresh food rose 57 percent from last year’s 21 to 33 this year. Baskets of seafood and hanwoo, or Korean beef, were one of the most popular premium items for the holiday but sales faltered after the new law due to their prices that easily jumped over 100,000 won.

Among Shinsegae’s released products are Australian beef or frozen shrimps from the Indian Ocean, both priced for 50,000 won or less. Fruits are part of the list as well, with Persian apple mangoes sold at 50,000 won.

Some companies simply reduced the size of the premium gift baskets to price it at 50,000 won. Hyundai Department Store, for example, released five boxes with small-packages of seasonings and spices from Myeongin Myeongchon. A premium brand made by Hyundai, Myeongin Myeongchon sells traditional Korean sauce, wine, sesame oil and side dishes, all from local manufacturers. The department store is also offering smaller baskets of dried corvina, beef and dried persimmons.

“We plan to look out for more quality products that could be added to the list of gift sets with a reduced price,” said Yoon Sang-kyung, manager for the company’s fresh food department.

Several deluxe hotels, which were the go-to place for luxurious holiday gifts, are also betting on low-priced products for the Lunar New Year. In the past, gift sets started at 100,000 and went up to several million won, as many items were selected or manufactured by hotel chefs or sommeliers. The premium brand image of hotels discouraged companies from lowering prices.

Grand Walkerhill Seoul released a series of handmade chocolate boxes with price tags ranging from 14,000 won to 48,000 won, all of which were developed by Walkerhill’s Research and Development center. A smaller version of Walkerhill’s Supex kimchi, another popular food gift set made in the same research center, was priced at 46,000 won. The Plaza Hotel is presenting gift sets from its Eric Kayser bakery for less than 50,000 won and Lotte Hotel Seoul sells a 50,000 won gift coupon usable in every affiliate of Lotte Hotels and Resorts.

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