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Vendors Surviving Amidst Chain Stores

Posted May. 10, 2006 02:59,   


Facing Crisis-

The Dokkaebi Market in Banghak-dong, Dobong-gu, Seoul, is small with fewer than 100 stores. Since the 1980s, merchants have sold their wares for only two hours in the evening to avoid police patrol, thus earning the nickname “dokkaebi” (bogey).

Crisis struck instantly. After the 1997-1998 financial crisis, four retail outlets were established within a 2-km perimeter, and the number of customers reduced drastically.

The stores could not pay their rents and moved out. Merchants sat around and got drunk or stood forlornly, counting the passers-by.

“We’re going to perish here.”

The merchants started to form a common voice.

We can do it too-

In 2003, they requested a market environment development project. A huge arcade was installed in the market alley, and the interior roads were also renovated, giving it a semblance of modernity.

But the customers did not return. A more drastic measure had to be taken.

In 2004, the market committee received “renewing the market ideas” from the merchants.

Numerous opinions were expressed. Among those selected, ideas included “select one day each month as a ‘dokkaebi’ day and sell” and “let’s distribute advertisements to the people like the retail outlets.”

Some merchants opposed the idea, saying that it was money foolishly spent. The majority, however, stated, “The retail outlets do it so why not us?” They had nothing to lose.

Surpassing the Retail Outlets-

Housewives who have seen sales at the traditional markets for the first time gathered one by one at the markets. Sales for Thanksgiving that year were twice the amount of last year. Having successfully pulled off their efforts, the merchants started to expand these events.

“Thank you sales” distributed small gifts through raffles and “sudden sales” three times a week, where one or two products would “suddenly” be put on sale. The merchants’ endeavors did not stop here.

The merchants also reduced their prices by transacting directly with the supplier and through bulk purchasing. The committee investigated the number of customers according to the weather and time and selected the sale products, thus securing customers for the merchants through an effective marketing method.

The results were highly successful, and last year’s sales increased by 30 percent from the previous year. Merchants from other traditional markets conducted study tours on the market.

Jae-Dong Yu jarrett@donga.com