In South Korea’s tough and fast-paced economy, the corner shop rules
Seoul is a busy place: skyscrapers dominate the landscape contrasting with the traditional Hanok houses; the efficient transport system runs at full throttle. South Koreans do some of the longest hours in the world – on average 300 hours more per year than in the USA or 400 more than in the UK*. Eating and drinking is equally fast-paced and the sidewalks are bustling with restaurants and coffee shops ready to supply a quick lunch solution or an ice-coffee. There is no time to waste.
After time, the second main concern is space. South Korea is one of the most densely populated countries in the world and, apart from bigger department stores of course, convenience shops or corner shop tend to be quite small and packed.
Space is generally at a premium, so wine, being a relatively immature category, tends to suffer. Not only some specialist shops closed after the recession and retail now is more skewed towards hypermarket/supermarkets, but because convenience stores and corner shops only carry a limited number of brands, sometimes as little as 4 or 5 SKU’s in a typically tiny corner shop. If in the UK we speak of the daunting “wall of wine” in Korea perhaps we can speak of the “winner takes all” effect.
With limited shelf space, only a few brands are consistently in front of consumers and can manage to create awareness. Conservative and brand loyal consumers can purchase their tried and tested brands over and over but it’s a harder place for newcomers. First you need a brand that works and communicates well with South Korean consumers, then you need to fight for attention and crucially for space. Having your wine recommended in restaurants or having samples offered by the helpful staff in larger stores or seems to be the beginning to build some awareness in this competitive but profitable wine market.
Author: Juan Park