According to the Korea Convenience Store Industry Association, South Korea had some 50,000 convenience stores as of August 2021, but the industry has grown at an annual average of about 12 percent with about 3,000 new stores opening in 2020 amid a coronavirus pandemic.
Convenience store franchises have desperately sought innovative business models to ride out a pandemic.
CU has beefed up its instant grocery delivery service by partnering with South Korea's web service giant Naver in March 2020 so that customers can make delivery orders using Naver's integrated web platform. The second-largest player, GS25, partnered with a domestic startup to offer a laundry pickup service.
BGF Retail, the operator of CU, said in a statement on January 5 that the franchise partnered with Aroundable, a domestic home appliance rental service startup, to provide the rental service at five selected stores in Seoul. Customers can make online reservations for products they wish to borrow or visit a store and pick up what's available. Game consoles including Sony PlayStation 5 are available for home parties or for small gathering occasions with friends.
The latest version of Apple iPad Pro can be rented for a daily fee of 4,700 won (3.92) and Samsung Galaxy Watch for 800 won. Customers can return borrowed items to the store or use a parcel delivery service.
The innovative service was off to an official start after a one-month demonstration that began in December 2021. About 80 percent of customers who participated in the demonstration were customers in their 20s and 30s. Tablet PCs and smartwatches topped the list of popular items, followed by beauty appliances such as hair dryers. BGF Retail said that the rental service will be available at other stores in the future.
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