South Korea's three major discount retailers – E-Mart, Home Plus and Lotte Mart – say they will resume sales of U.S. beef on Thanksgiving Day in Seoul, the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) reports. The E-Mart, Home Plus and Lotte Mart chains consist of 119, 113 and 63 stores, respectively.

The retail chains issued a joint press release on Tuesday announcing the decision and explained the move is due in part to the slow economy and daily financial difficulties facing Koreans. The companies said their sales of U.S. beef will provide value and convenience, as well as help stabilize consumer prices, and added there is no longer any reason for them not to carry price-competitive U.S. beef.

USMEF is providing promotional support to all the chains and believes initial sales at these major retailers will prompt sales at other outlets.

Phil Seng, USMEF president and CEO, says U.S. beef export numbers have been strong since U.S. beef shipments commenced to South Korea in late July, but sales in Korea have been limited to small outlets due to reluctance by major retailers and foodservice operations to sell U.S. beef because of lingering consumer anxiety and weak economic conditions.

USMEF has been actively promoting U.S. beef sales with Korean butcher shops and neighborhood restaurants since early September, but participation by large retailers is critical to jump-starting larger volume sales across all market sectors, he says. The timing of this week's large retailer re-launch is expected to lead other retail and restaurant chains to feature U.S. beef before the lunar New Year peak consumption period in late January.

Seoul-based USMEF Director Jihae Yang points that “the current economic crunch, together with the fact that the Korean won has depreciated almost 50% since the market reopened this past summer, will make price the key factor in terms of how U.S. beef is received."
-- USMEF news release