S. Korea's E-Mart uses U.S. beef to increase sales

by Bryan Salvage
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CENTENNIAL, COLO. — E-Mart, South Korea’s retail giant, is depending on U.S. beef to help it rebound from stagnant sales in 2009 and the early returns look extremely positive, according to the beef checkoff program.

Last year, sales in the big-box retail sector lagged behind general economic growth in South Korea, and management at E-Mart has seized on the concept of Everyday Low Prices (E.D.L.P.) to help it attract new customers, differentiate it from other big-box competitors and drive sales. U.S. beef is one of the key products E-Mart has identified to adhere to the E.D.L.P. program throughout the year.

Three U.S. beef items have been promoted by E-Mart at 123 of its stores between Jan. 15 and Jan. 20 — chilled bone-in short rib, chilled chuck eye roll and frozen boneless chuck short rib.

The promotion was supported by beef checkoff investments and U.S.D.A. Market Access Program (M.A.P.) funds by conducting sampling of U.S. beef at 30 targeted E-Mart stores and by making purchasers eligible for a drawing to win a trip to the U.S. to visit a ranch. The stores also displayed commercials from the “Trust” television advertising campaign on screens in the meat department.

U.S. beef was a popular purchase during the promotion, with sales in the six-day period reaching 1.86 billion Korean won (approximately $1.6 million), a 300% increase from the week before.

The promotion also helped U.S. beef rebound versus rival Australian beef. In the fourth quarter of 2009, Aussie beef outsold its U.S. counterpart by a ratio of 79% to 21% of imported beef sales. During the Jan. 15-20 promotion, U.S. beef outsold Australian beef by a ratio of 57% to 43%.

“E-Mart prepared this full-scale U.S. beef promotion to expand overall beef consumption that has slowed due to the depressed economy,” said Young-sun Min, E-Mart livestock team manager. “With the success of this promotion, we see strong potential with U.S. beef and are willing to strengthen promotional programs.”

During the promotion, E-Mart sold frozen boneless chuck short rib valued at 1.25 billion Korean won (just over $1 million), chilled chuck eye roll valued at 350 million won (more than $300,000) and chilled bone-in short ribs valued at 330 million won (more than $280,000).

“The willingness of E-Mart to partner with the U.S. Meat Export Federation and feature U.S. beef is a significant development,” said Jihae Yang, Korea director for the U.S.M.E.F., the beef checkoff contractor managing the project. “E-Mart is a very influential retailer, and its long-term plan to feature U.S. beef is a clear sign that the market is more receptive to the message of the quality and safety of U.S. beef.”
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