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Lotte Mart bets on health-conscious shoppers

Jan 24,2018
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A card with the slogan “Happiness is everything” greets consumers at Lotte Mart’s Seoul Station branch in central Seoul. [LOTTE MART]
Discount chain Lotte Mart announced Tuesday that it will focus on health with the products that it sells and promotes this year, in an attempt to get ahead in the highly competitive retail market.

The company said in a statement that it was aiming to cater to a changing trend towards value-based consumption.

“When discount chains first started appearing in Korea, the most crucial competitive point was who can offer products at the most reasonable price,” said a Lotte Mart spokesman. “But now, nobody cares whether they can buy the same product 10 won cheaper at the next store.”

Lotte Mart’s new focus is to “offer the value of health” itself to consumers. This means managers in charge of the products placed on the retailer’s shelves - both buyers that externally look for items and those that internally develop Lotte Mart’s private brands - will be trained and expanded in number to offer healthier products.

The starting point will be food, from the fresh food they offer to the home meal replacements they make. “Our plan is to gradually conduct change across all branches to enlarge the selection of fresh food and health supplementary products,” said the spokesman.

“This year’s goal is to position Lotte Mart not as a discount chain that sells a little of everything, but more as a retailer that promotes your family’s health.”

The line-up of fitness products like yoga matts and gym balls will also be expanded. There will be public campaigns that encourage better health such as the exercise video Lotte Mart filmed and uploaded on its social media account this month. This year’s slogan, “Health is everything” will decorate branches and promotional flyers.

In fact, this isn’t the only “healthy” move that Lotte Mart has been making recently. Last month, it announced a plan to halt sales of cigarettes and actually started taking them off the shelves this month. Two weeks, ago, the company launched sales of small packages of health supplements that usually come in larger bottles. The product was intended to help consumers try out different supplements without having to commit to a whole jar.

The reason Lotte Mart is attempting to promote “health” as a differentiation point is because healthy things sell. Despite a general decline in sales, fruit sales increased 2.3 percent last year compared to 2016, while vegetables rose 3.3 percent. Fresh meat and seafood both grew by 6 percent. The increase for health supplements was noticeably bigger, at 11.2 percent.


BY SONG KYOUNG-SON [song.kyoungson@joongang.co.kr]