'Living with COVID-19' policy raises expectation for liquor businesses - Korea Times
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'Living with COVID-19' policy raises expectation for liquor businesses

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A customer shops for liquor at a supermarket in Seoul on April 23. Korea Times file
A customer shops for liquor at a supermarket in Seoul on April 23. Korea Times file

By Kim Jae-heun

Local brewery companies and liquor traders are hoping to see a rebound in the fourth quarter of this year, with the government pointing to the possible implementation of a "Living with COVID-19" strategy that will ease social distancing measures nationwide.

The government has already relaxed restrictions to allow a maximum of eight people to gather after 6 p.m. at restaurants and coffee shops in the capital area until Oct. 31. In regions outside of Seoul, Gyeonggi Province and Incheon, a maximum of 10 people can meet up together now.

When the "Living with COVID-19" policy is fully adopted in November and stores are allowed to open until midnight or later, domestic liquor businesses believe their sales will be in a much better state.

Most brewery firms have seen a drop in sales due to pandemic-induced regulations over the last two years. They tried to counter this by promoting "drink at home" or "drink alone" marketing strategies under the strict social distancing measures, but it was not enough to deal with the plunge in sales at restaurants, bars and nightclubs that account for 60 percent of total sales.

New Year's events are some of the more lucrative times for alcohol sellers to rake in profit.

For the coming December and January, local firms will pursue a "two-track" strategy targeting both groups of those who will be hosting a party outside and those drinking alone at home. For home drinkers, soju-makers will introduce low-alcohol drinks and increase merchandise goods marketing through convenience stores and small traders.

"People's preference for high-alcohol drinks in colder months is not as prominent as before, but they still tend to drink more soju than beer in winter. The sales volume of soju soars by 15 percent to 20 percent between November and December compared to the other months," an industry source said.

Wine, in particular, becomes a popular option at the end of the season for the majority of people who drink moderately to get into the festive spirit rather than to get inebriated.

Lotte Chilsung Beverage has been leading the wine sector this year. It expanded extra imported wine collections and is planning to open "WineOn," a special wine retail chain.

Local distiller HiteJinro introduced 70 new wines in the first half of this year.

"We do not think the sentiment will change dramatically at once with the adoption of the Living with COVID-19 policy," the source said. "Things will change gradually and domestic breweries and distillers are preparing for the easing of social distancing measures with caution."


Kim Jae-heun jhkim@koreatimes.co.kr


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