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Liquor shops expand across Korea as ‘homesul’ trend takes off

Korean convenience store chains have launched specialty liquor stores in response to the drinking-at-home trend ‘homesul’.

The E-mart24 branch in Cheonho-dong, which opened in April as the chain’s first liquor convenience store, has reportedly responded to the pandemic-provoked trend.

Responding to the launch, an E-mart24 official said: “A growing trend of people drinking solo or with friends at home led to the launch of E-mart24’s alcohol-focused convenience stores. As the pandemic prolongs, many prefer to stop by a convenience store to grab a beer rather than hang out with friends in pubs. The store is aimed at increasing customers’ access to various kinds of alcoholic beverages.”

Office worker Jin-song, who visits the E-mart24 store in Cheonho-dong at least twice a week, explained: “Drinking one or two glasses of beer, wine or whiskey with delicious food alone at home while watching Netflix is one of the few pleasures in my life. For people like me who want different kinds of alcoholic drinks each time depending on foods to pair them with, the alcohol convenience store is very helpful.”

Earlier in March, GS25 set up a new branch store in Hyoja-dong in Jeonju, North Jeolla Province which listed more than 1,000 alcoholic drinks products, including wine, spirits, traditional liquor and craft beer, taking up one-third of the store’s space of around 60 square metres.

Additionally, some GS25 stores in Seoul have been remodeled to better serve drinkers, for instance, a GS25 branch near Hapjeong Station has a special section where nearly 500 bottles and cans of alcohol drinks are displayed in refrigerators and on shelves offering consumers a chance to peruse drinks at eye-line.

Noting the trend, Kim Min-Jung, a consumer science professor at Sookmyung Women’s University observed: “The onset of the Coronavirus gave rise to the phenomena of ‘homesul,’ or drinking at home, while boosting the existing ‘honsul’ solo drinking trend. The protracted Coronavirus crisis, coupled with an increase in the number of single-person households, will continue to boost demand for stores specialising in liquors.”

Korea has seen a continued rise in one-person households as more young people are delaying or giving up on marriage due to economic reasons and changes in social norms which is gradually adapting local culture.

According to data compiled by Statistics Korea, as of last October, the number of working one-person households jumped by 440,000 on-year to 4.14 million households, meaning more people are looking for solitary entertainment as opposed to drinking socially with partners and family members.

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