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Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Neighborhood supermarkets against big retailers

This one in Sillim 2-dong has been surviving. (And seems that the "Kimpap Heaven" in the background as well as the butcher's shop are still there as well. (c) Jan 2005
Korean Supermarket Association (or whatever 한국수퍼마켓협동조합연합회 might use as its English-language name) and Korea Federation of Small and Medium Business have submitted a memorandum (kônûisô) to the government authorities protesting the planned alleviation of restrictions concerning large-scale retail establishments (from Chosun Ilbo). This is not as much about the largest kind of retail outlets but about these outlet companies expanding to smaller markets covered this far by more or less independent neighborhood shops.

The neighborhood businesses do have a case here, at least from their own point of view (customers might disagree); it is a question of the livelihood of many, and from the street-level neighborhood business sphere (tongne sanggwôn 商圈), which in Korean context often is given a positive appraisal. (And of course I have my own research-related sympathies for neighborhood shopkeepers as well...) The association is going to join forces with local consumer associations to campaign for "keeping alive the local economy." Interesting thing is that I remember reading a similar piece of news already some five years ago: a similar (if not the same) association was protesting against the intrusion of smaller outlets by big retailer companies to the neighborhood sphere. My impression is that while the importance of huge retailers for customers has grown, most of the smaller neighborhood "supermarkets" have been able to stay afloat. And government policies have not been always disfavoring them; forbidding department stores and large-scale discount stores to operate shuttle buses to transport customers from residential areas benefitted small shops in neighborhoods.

Prospects still don't look very good for these; by all accounts, customers turn to bigger retail establishments. Small neighborhood businesses in general do survive, but for small "supermarkets" I wouldn't bet my money.

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