South Korean C-Stores Outperform Supermarkets

Single-person households are one reason why.

February 18, 2020

SEOUL—The growth of convenience stores in South Korea is accelerating along with the country’s social changes, including an increase in the number of single-person households and the rising popularity of online shopping, reports

South Korean convenience stores made more money than large supermarkets last year. GS25, a popular c-store chain with more than 13,000 outlets, posted record operating profits of $217 million last year, while CU, the country’s largest c-store operator, reported record operating profits of $166 million.

At the same time, South Korea’s largest discount chain, Emart Inc., saw its operating profit plunge 67.4%. Homeplus Co., the second-largest retailer in the country, also is struggling, although the company has not yet released its financial report from 2019. Last year, Lotte Mart, the country’s third-largest retailer, posted an operating loss of $21 million and announced it would close several stores.

In addition to more single-person households, the success of South Korean c-stores is attributed to growth of the “simple meal” market and the trend of convenience stores transforming themselves into a lifestyle platform despite the overall decline in offline distribution.