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(LEAD) 'Korea Sale Festa' kicks off with huge discounts from retailers

All News 14:43 September 29, 2016

(ATTN: UPDATES with senior officials' visit to malls in paras 17-19)
By Kim Eun-jung

SEOUL, Sept. 29 (Yonhap) -- South Korea kicked off a nationwide shopping event on Thursday with a variety of promotions, cultural and entertainment events to draw more shoppers at home and abroad, and revive the sluggish domestic consumption.

The massive shopping campaign called the "Korea Sale Festa" runs until Oct. 9, involving major retailers, manufacturers and traditional markets, while cultural and entertainment programs for foreign travelers will be held throughout October.

Major retailers, manufacturers and traditional markets kick off a nationwide shopping campaign, the "Korea Sale Festa," to offer promotions and discounts from Sept. 29 to Oct. 9, 2016. (Yonhap)

The shopping festival is jointly hosted by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy and the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism to tie up the retail industry with tourism and cultural sectors to unleash pent-up demands in time with the major Chinese holiday season.

A total of 249 retailers, manufacturers and online malls provide discounts and promotions at 59,000 stores across the nation, offering much wider options compared with last year's fall shopping season when "Korea Black Friday" and "Korea Grand Sale" were held between September and October.

This shopping season isn't just limited to malls and online retailers. Consumers looking for a new vehicle, phone or television will find some attractive bargains at car dealerships and electronics stores as major companies join the shopping season. Among the big names are Samsung Electronics, LG Electronics, Hyundai Motor, AmorePacific and LG Household & Healthcare.

A sales manager at Samsung's electronics store in Seoul explains discount deals on a refrigerator on Sept. 28, 2016, in this photo provided by the company. (Yonhap)

Three car makers -- Hyundai Motor, SsangYong Motor and Renault Samsung Motors -- offer up to a 10 percent discount on cars during the period, while Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics give half priced deals on best-selling home appliance items. Consumers can get up to a 670,000 won discount (US$612) on Samsung's Galaxy S6 Edge Plus smartphone.

Department stores give deep discounts on luxury goods, fashion items and cosmetics, knocking down price tags by up to 80 percent.

Among the top price for a giveaway event is a 700 million won apartment offered by Lotte Department Store, the retail unit of Lotte Group.

Online malls and social commerce sites, including Coupang and Ticket Monster, are also offering cyber deals during the period, with the government supporting part of their delivery fees to boost sales.

About 400 traditional markets nationwide will hold various events and unique festivals in October to catch the eyes of visitors and spur the local economy.

The event held ahead of the year-end holiday season is raising expectations among local retailers as it overlaps with a Chinese national holiday that runs from Oct. 1-7. It's when deep-pocketed Chinese travelers hop on planes to go on a holiday shopping spree.

SsangYong's offers 'super discounts' for 1,000 customers on a first-come, first-served basis during Korea Sale Festa. (Yonhap)

According to industry officials, about 250,000 Chinese tourists are expected to visit South Korea during the weeklong autumn holiday.

With so much money up for grabs, local retailers have prepared a bunch of promotional events and giveaways targeting Chinese patrons.

Myeongdong, the busiest shopping street in downtown Seoul, has transformed to embrace Chinese travelers, supplementing Chinese-speaking shop assistants and putting up Mandarin signs for the latest beauty products.

Duty free stores, which heavily rely on Chinese travelers, also offer promotional and entertainment events, teaming up with credit card companies.

Shinsegae Duty Free holds "K-beauty and fashion week" during the Chinese holiday at its Myeongdong branch to attract those who are interested in beauty know-how and encourage purchase of Korean beauty products.

Myeongdong, a shopping district in downtown Seoul, is crowded with shoppers during a holiday season on May 1, 2016. (Yonhap)

On the first day of the shopping festival, senior officials visited major department stores and malls, and pledged to provide support to make the event successful.

"Although the government and the private sector cooperated to prepare for the event, customer satisfaction is the most important thing," Trade Minister Joo Hyung-hwan said during his visit to Shinsegae Department Store in Myeongdong. "We will support the retail industry to help revitalize the lackluster domestic consumption at a time when various negative factors are weighing down the national economy."

Finance Minister Yoo Il-ho dropped by Dongdaemun Market, a clothing shopping mecca in Seoul, to have meetings with industry officials and expressed hope that the event could provide "a chance to boost weak consumer sentiment."

Market watchers say the influx of Chinese tourists will give much-needed momentum to revitalize the tepid domestic consumption, which will in turn drive up shares related to consumption and leisure.

"While last year's sales event was mostly about offering discount deals, Korea Sale Festa is more systematic with wider discounts and cultural events for foreign travelers," Nam Ok-jin, a researcher at Samsung Securities, said. "Special offers given during (China's) National Day is expected to maximize the effect."


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