SEOUL, Jan.8 (Korea Bizwire) – While sales at department stores and large discount stores have stayed steady or even deceased over the past three years, convenience stores have seen annual growth rates between 10 and 20 percent.
Private brands for items such as lunch boxes and snacks developed to meet the needs of single and two-person households are the main driving force behind sales growth at convenience stores, but there are other benefits that are offered by the stores, such as the ability to pay utility bills and make use of parcel services.
According to the 2015 Convenience Store Industry Trend Report issued by the Korea Association of Convenience Store Industry (KACS), 26,000 convenience stores from the top six brands provided 26 different types of services. Considering the new services added in 2015 as brands attempted to differentiate themselves, industry watchers assume that 30 to 40 different services are currently being provided.
Firstly, utility bills including electricity, telephone, insurance, internet, newspaper, taxes, and cable TV can be paid at convenience stores. More than 99 percent of the convenience stores accept various utility bills and tax payments instead of banks.
More than 80 percent of convenience stores have ATMs, and offer mobile coupons and various gift cards, and more than 90 percent also provide parcel services, and can charge mobile phones and transportation cards.
In addition, convenience stores are adding unique services to attract more customers in light of the industry’s fierce competition.
Seven Eleven’s Sogong store is operating a ‘pick-up locker’. Customers can have Lotte Department store products purchase online delivered to the lockers for pick-up at their convenience. Seven Eleven plans to expand the ’24 hour pick-up locker’ service affiliated with online shopping sites nationwide during the year.
Another noticeable service is the ‘return service’. Consumers who wish to return products purchased from Lotte Home Shopping can return them to a nearby Seven Eleven anytime without having to wait for a delivery person to pick them up.
CU, in cooperation with Samsung Electronics, has been testing a ‘public cloud printing service’ since March 2015.
Through the service, consumers can print, scan, copy, and fax documents 24 hours a day. Customers can download documents saved on Naver N drive or Daum Cloud at a CU store prior to using the services.
CU is planning to expand its service coverage after the analysis of consumer demand is finalized.
CU’s ‘Itaewon Freedom Store’ holds on to customers’ luggage. It first started as a service provided to foreign tourists who visit Itaewon with heavy luggage, but young customers who go clubbing in the area are frequent users of the service.
CU officials commented that the number of customers visiting the Itaewon store has increased by 15 to 20 percent since the locker service was launched. The company plans to increase the number of stores with locker services, especially in areas where many tourists visit.
By Francine Jung (firstname.lastname@example.org)