Seoul City has declared another war against major retailers by planning to limit the sales of 51 items including fresh foods at large discount stores and supermarket chains.
Although the measure is not legally binding yet, Seoul City’s recommendation to large discount stores and supermarket chains to restrict sales of those items would deal a blow to their revenues should it become a law.
The main objective is to lure people to conventional or traditional markets.
The city government plans to propose revising a related law to the National Assembly following a public hearing with interested parties and consumers next month.
|Shoppers navigate the aisles at Lotte Mart, one of the nation’s top retail chainstores. (Yonhap News)|
Officials at E-mart, Homeplus, Lotte Mart and their affiliated supermarket chains like E-mart Everyday and Lotte Super believe the impact would be disastrous beyond comparison with the law that forces them to close two days a month.
“Who’s going to come to a discount store that doesn’t sell tofu and eggs?” said an official at one of the discount stores.
The 51 items that include tobacco and 17 types of vegetables and fresh goods such as fish, eggs and meat, accounted for about 15 percent of E-mart’s sales last year.
The new measure is yet another move by the Park Geun-hye government to help out the little people in the industry, but consumers appeared appalled.
“It would be terribly inconvenient if I can only buy beer and snacks at a discount store, and have to go somewhere else to buy fresh food,” said Kim Sang-min, who frequents a nearby Lotte Mart. “The conventional markets are too far away.”
Merchants at conventional marketplaces say the measure may have some positive effect on their business, but chide that more urgent issues need to be addressed.
“The city’s measure may bring more customers, but what’s hurting our business most is not the discount stores but the people who sell cheap produce from trucks within or near the market,” said one woman who sells greens at Seoul’s Jungang Market near Sindang subway station.
“Although legally unbinding, the measure has provided the grounds for the adjustment of items sold at large discount stores and will therefore help revive conventional markets and mom-and-pop shops,” said Kang Hee-eun, the Seoul City official in charge of supporting small business owners.
The city is also considering adjusting the number of items a new super supermarket can sell when small business owners in the neighborhood file for business adjustment.
“The major retailers are officially against it, but some within the industry say they don’t need to sell some of the products that are unprofitable,” Kang said.
By Kim So-hyun (email@example.com)