Boom time for Korean convenience store sector

The Korean convenience store sector is experiencing rapid growth as heavyweights battle for market share.

The number of convenience stores in South Korea surpassed 33,000 as of the end of October this year, marking a rapid growth since the opening of the first store 27 years ago, according to industry data.  

That’s a significant increase from the 28,994 counted at the end of last year.

CU had the most with 10,634, followed by GS25 with 10,486 and 7-Eleven with 8486. Japan-affiliated brand Mini Stop had 2326, and With Me, a chain operated by Shinsegae Group, had 1615. There are some 100 others that are not part of franchises, according to the Korea Association of Convenience Store Industry.

South Korea’s first convenience store opened in southern Seoul in May 1989.

The rising number of single-person households and aging society are funneling consumers to convenience stores that are near their homes and sell small portions, industry watchers say. Convenience stores have been quick to adapt to such a customer base, expanding from conventional shelf goods, such as snacks and beverages, to lunch boxes and other kinds of meals for singles who don’t want to cook, as well as services, including delivery and financial transactions.

The sector grew 11.4 per cent last year, visibly comparable with 1.2 per cent growth in 2013 and 4.7 per cent in 2014. Sales increased from 12.8 trillion won (US$10.96 billion) in 2013 to 13.8 trillion won in 2014 and to 17.2 trillion won last year.

Industry watchers expect sales this year to exceed 20 trillion won, with room for more growth until 2030, considering that South Korea’s per-store sales is only about one-fourth of that in Japan. Japan currently has about 55,600 convenience stores.




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