South Korea’s retail conglomerate Hyundai Department Store Group opens its first duty-free store at its branch in Samseong-dong, southern Seoul, on November 1 as a newcomer into the lucrative duty-free race dominated by two other retail names, Lotte and Shinsegae.
The new 14,250-square-meter duty-free store will open inside Hyundai Department Store’s Trade Center branch in Samseong-dong, an affluent business district in southern Seoul.
It will take up three floors at the branch and offer 420 domestic and foreign brands.
Luxury brands will be based on the eight floor, while the ninth floor is reserved for beauty products and fashion stores.
The 10th floor will have a more various selection of products from character goods to food like red ginseng and dried seaweed that is popular with foreign duty-free shoppers.
The project is a huge one for Hyundai Department Store, which has been relatively conservative in the last decade regarding business expansions.
Other department store rivals Lotte and Shinsegae have already established a stable foothold in the duty-free industry.
In a press conference held at the new store on October 31, Hwang Hae-yeon, president of Hyundai Department Store Duty Free Co., said that it will provide high-quality life-style duty-free store service to consumers by escaping existing business practices and introducing new perspective.
Hwang said the new store is expected to raise 670 billion won (US$588.2 million) in sales next year and over 1 trillion won in 2020.
Hyundai Department Store Group will also create a digital-exclusive space to provide differentiated customer experience.
It will invest 10 billion won to install the country’s largest 37-meter-wide and 36-meter-high light-emitting diode digital signage on the exterior wall of Hyundai Department Store’s Trade Center branch in December.
The retailer also plans to promote diverse marketing by linking other businesses in retail, fashion, and travel, with its duty-free store to solidify its presence as a comprehensive retailer.
The new addition will be the fourth duty-free store in the Gangnam area, along with Lotte Duty Free stores in the Lotte World Tower in Songpa District and in COEX and the Shinsegae Duty Free near the Express Bus Terminal.
Being closer to other duty-free stores has tended to work as an advantage in the past, as tourists, especially those in large groups, can visit all of the different venues in one outing.
In the past, duty-free stores inside Seoul were mainly clustered the North of the river, but the recent shift toward the Gangnam area suggests that a new duty-free destination could develop in the south of the city.
Hwang also expressed confidence in the Gangnam location beside COEX as the operation’s “main differentiation point.”
The venue is located near three high-end hotels, an underground mall, a casino and a convention center that regularly hosts international fairs. SM Town, a well-known destination among K-pop fans that also sells SM Entertainment products, is also nearby.
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The launch of Hyundai’s duty-free store comes at a complicated time: Chinese group tours to Korea – which once accounted for 70 percent of local duty free revenue – haven’t fully recovered after the U.S.-led antimissile system Thaad deployment last year.
There are mounting concerns that duty-free stores are in fierce competition for commission fees in order to attract Chinese resellers that purchase in bundles.
“There’s excessive competition in the market now – I want it to normalize and we’re going to try to stay away from [contributing to] it,” said Hwang.
“There are many challenges, including regulations in China, but things are getting better. Chinese resellers can’t be ignored at the moment but in the long run, our plan is to focus on attracting ordinary tourists.”
(Source: Pulse News)