SKT, CU team up to bring groceries to doorsteps

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SKT, CU team up to bring groceries to doorsteps


SK Planet CEO Lee Inn-chan, left, and BGF Retail CEO Lee Keon-jun pose at a ceremony at SK Telecom’s headquarters in central Seoul on Monday. [BGF RETAIL]

BGF Retail, the operator of Korea’s largest convenience store chain CU, acquired a majority stake in fresh-food delivery service Hello Nature as part of a partnership it signed with SK Telecom on Monday.

The two companies plan to make Hello Nature the No. 1 player in premium fresh food retail. The market has grown rapidly in recent years thanks to the increase in single-person households and development of logistics networks. Last year, Hello Nature had 500,000 subscribers as of 2017, and the company’s sales grew by an average 121 percent over the past three years. Their partnership will take advantage of the mobile carrier’s digital capability and BGF’s retail experience.

Hello Nature, founded in 2012, is well known for delivering fresh food sourced directly from over 1,000 farmers. Orders can be placed any time before midnight, and customers receive their food early in the morning.

While the online market is currently a wholly-owned subsidiary of SK Planet, BGF’s acquisition will make the company a joint venture under the two companies. BGF will hold 50.1 percent of Hello Nature and SK Planet will have a 49.9 percent stake. BGF will acquire shares by purchasing new stocks issued by Hello Nature to increase its capital.

To further develop Hello Nature, BGF will offer its logistics expertise as well its physical infrastructure. The company has more than 13,000 CU shops in Korea. SK Telecom will contribute by offering technologies like artificial intelligence and big data analysis, while SK Planet will share its experience with online commerce.

Hello Nature is part of SK Planet and BGF’s plan to disrupt the retail industry using technology.

According to the mobile carrier, the two companies plan to open a shop where an AI voice assistant takes orders, customers are recognized by biometric identifications and products are managed accurately by internet-connected shelves.

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