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Olympic visitors snap up Absolut necessities

Feb 21,2018
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Foreign visitors shop for snacks in a CU store in Pyeongchang county, Gangwon. [CU]
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Foreign visitors to the Olympics are tearing through stocks of wine, vodka and fresh fruit at CU convenience stores, showing scant interest in the usual best sellers like soju, according to statistics released Tuesday.

The chain analyzed sales data from approximately 20 branches in Pyeongchang County and Gangneung in Gangwon between Feb. 9 and Sunday.

Results showed wine, foreign liquors such as vodka and whiskey, and fruit were among the top 10 categories of products. Those products barely register at normal CU branches.

According to CU, half of the customers at the 20 stores were foreigners. Since the Olympics started, those stores had three times the number of customers as in the first week of February, which was before the games started.

“Wine rarely reaches the top of our best sellers list,” said a CU spokesman. “So we ran an analysis on the sales figures of branches in the region to find that our conventional top five steady sellers - Chamisul soju, [Binggrae] banana milk, Coca-Cola, instant snacks and canned coffee - had all been pushed down from their usual ranks.”

To the company’s surprise, the No. 1 bestselling product was Absolut Vodka.

Wine and foreign liquors - mainly whisky and vodka - usually account for less than 1 percent of sales at branches. During the Olympics, wine ranked second (4.3 percent of sales) and foreign liquors third (3.9 percent) in terms of sales categories. Each sold 50 percent more than soju.

Beer was the No. 1 sales category - as it is in normal times too - with 17.1 percent of sales. Foreign beer brands were slightly more popular than usual, accounting for 9 percent of sales during the period.

“In terms of food, soft drinks and instant meals are our best sellers normally,” said the spokesman, “But during this period, we’re selling more clementines, strawberries and apples.”

Fresh fruit sales are normally less than 0.2 percent of total sales. During the games, they rose to eighth place with a 2.6 percent share.

The most popular fruit were clementines, one of the best-selling winter fruits in Korea. CU said clementines sold more than even Chamisul soju, Coca-Cola and Binggrae banana milk.


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