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Convenience stores get fancy with steak and plane tickets

Apr 05,2018
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Convenience stores are heading upmarket this year, adding luxury items like steak and plane tickets to their old standbys of booze, snacks and cigarettes.

Convenience stores started expanding their fresh food offerings last year, as more single households are taking short trips to nearby shops for ingredients rather than heading to grocery stores.

GS25 upped its offerings to another level by becoming the first convenience store to offer steak at all of its branches nationwide on Wednesday.

The product comes in two varieties: 170 grams (6 ounces) of top loin or 150 grams of loin end. Both are Australian Black Angus cattle.

One package costs 9,900 won ($8.46), contains beef cut and is ready to be served as steak for one person. Fresh meat was sold at several convenience stores before, but it was often cut into smaller pieces fit for immediate use in fried or marinated dishes.

“Steak is now a dish enjoyed by the public, which also means there are more consumers nowadays that want to have it at home,” said Kim Kyung-han, GS Retail’s merchandiser for meat products.

“But there were difficulties in obtaining steak meat, as it was only sold at grocery stores far away, or consumers had to wait for some time if they bought it online.”

In addition to steak, convenience stores are jumping into another luxury market - tourism. On Monday, CU announced a partnership with Jeju Air, the No. 1 low-cost carrier in Korea by market share.

Starting this month, Korea’s leading convenience store will allow Jeju Air customers to pay for their plane tickets at all of CU’s stores across the country. Customers can reserve the ticket through Jeju Air’s website or app and pay at a CU nearby afterwards.

“The service is aimed at students and foreigners who have difficulty paying for reservations online using mobile banking and credit cards,” said a CU spokeswoman. GS25 last year launched digital kiosk in collaboration with LCC Air Busan that allows customers to buy plane tickets at some of its shops.

These new businesses are part of a broader strategy by convenience stores to find new ways to make use of their networks of brick-and-mortar stores.

Starting on Monday, KB Kookmin Bank is allowing clients to withdraw, deposit and transfer cash under the same conditions as at Kookim ATMs at 7-Eleven’s ATMs. 7-Eleven signed a similar partnership deal with Kakao Bank in July.

Convenience stores ATMs were previously only available if customers paid high transaction fees.

Convenience stores once only had cash dispensers in the past, which are devices that only allow users to withdraw and transfer funds. Seven-Eleven started installing ATMs that is able to both withdraw and deposit in 2009 and has seen demand rise since then. Now, it operates 4,000 ATMs around the country, double the amount of cash dispensers.

7-Eleven has seen the percentage of users who deposit money at its ATMs rise to above 20 percent between January and March this year - more than doubling from 9.1 percent in 2015. For banks, operating ATMs at convenience stores is less costly than establishing ATMs on the street.

“Finance is a sector that is closely related to our daily lives, which is why proximity [to such infrastructure] is a must,” 7-Eleven said. “Convenience stores already have a huge infrastructure network so it’s likely that they will play an important role in finance in the future.”


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