Korea’s traditional markets and big retailers experiment with ways to coexist

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It’s not a stretch to say that the relationship
between Korea’s traditional markets and the country’s mega retailers has been a pretty
one-sided war. For years,…Korea’s big commercial outlets
have threatened the very existence of traditional markets, but recently there have been signs
the two can thrive side by side… as our Kim Jung-soo reports. Korea’s traditional marketplaces are usually
located far away from the big commercial retailers… so the smaller shops can have some room to
breathe — common sense, it would seem. But there’s a unique experiment going on in
Dangjin… that goes against such notion. This 2-story building was built by Dangjin’s
municipal government in 2015,… as an attempt to modernize the city’s fish market,… which
has a history of over 30 years. The original aim was to fill both stories
with local shop-owners, but no one was willing to take the risk of moving in upstairs, which
is less accessible for customers. That’s when the shop-owners themselves suggested
contacting one of Korea’s biggest retailers. “We reached out to E-mart because we believed
that would help attract more customers, and young customers specifically,… our strategy
has had a definite impact so far.” As a result,… the building is now a fusion
of opposites: the 1st floor features a traditional seafood marketplace,… while the 2nd floor
features E-mart’s “No Brand” store, a discount store that, as its name implies, sells goods
at low prices by skipping the entire branding and packaging process. According to the store manager,… there is
no overlap, or ‘competition’ between the goods available on the 1st and 2nd floors. “We opened in August 30, 2016. Our processed foods, such as chips, are always
very popular. Our household products, like detergents,…
are always in demand.” Customers in general have also welcomed this
union. I came here to buy fabric softeners for my
baby. I usually just come to the traditional markets
on market days, but now, I come here much more often. E-mart’s corporate social responsibility team
explained they had opened the store because they sensed an important shift in the market. “As of now, big retailers and Korea’s individual
shop owners are basically in the same boat. Customers these days choose between shopping
on-line and off-line. And we really think that the combination in
Dangjin can offer a very meaningful and special ‘off-line’ experience for customers.” Experts studying Korea’s small-business economy
have also viewed the news of Dangjin Fish Market’s makeover in a positive light. “Since 2012,… the government has tried to
enforce limits on the working hours of big retailers, but the picture is not so simple. Our surveys indicate that consumers want traditional
markets to catch up with modern consumption trends, such as payment methods and improvements
in hygiene. Dangjin’s individual shop owners also know
that they need to be more aware of customer satisfaction. “I keep telling my fellow shop-owners we need
a different, more collaborative mindset inside this building, compared to when we were out
on the street. If a customer has a bad experience with one
of the shops in this building, there’s a good chance he will never visit this facility again.” It’s been less than a year since Dangjin Fish
Market welcomed E-mart. Whether the fish market can re-establish itself
as the symbolic heart of Dangjin’s economy, remains a question waiting to be answered. Kim Jung-soo, Arirang News.

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