Choson Sinbo reports that Hwanggumbol, a company that we've trained in CE workshops, is setting up 'big box' style shops or department stores in several neighborhoods across Pyongyang. This is new: a large chain store with several departments, from food, to clothing to daily use items, with several locations around the capital. Two are already open.
A chain store is a new idea, but perhaps the main innovation is the opening hours: 6 a.m. to midnight, far longer than any of its competitors.
Hwanggumbol managers have taken part in multiple CE workshops and have taken part in mind-mapping and team-building exercises, as well as lean startup methodology and customer needs strategies. It is fitting that the article speaks of "responding to people's demands", though it is then said that "the idea of loving people", rather than "responding to their demands" is the concept they use. Its gratifying to see that some of the concepts we've covered in workshops are packed up in PR-conscious statements like these.
On a Women in Business workshop in Singapore last year, the businesswomen were obsessed with how retail worked elsewhere - Geoffrey recounts here how it took ages to drag them through a mall, not because they were shopping, but because they were taking notes on everything. They were extremely curious about how customers could be attracted, engaged and kept.
Back in Pyongyang, the manager of Hwanggumbol, Mr. Ryang Sung Jin, mentions that they are "prioritizing benefits for the people and their business' goal is people's convenience". Clearly, these guys have found their angle, differentiating themselves quite dramatically from the competition.
Rather practically, the article also notes that while other countries have 24-hour shopping, they judged that that wouldn't work in Korea.
But who knows? It may someday. We know other start-up companies exploring a convenience store concept, dry cleaning and delivery services. A convenience store will now have to compete on either opening hours or location, because these big, fairly cheap stores are going to start popping up around Pyongyang: three more are opening next month. We're not sure Pyongyang will be on an "top ten for expats" list for expats any time soon, but it seems as if retail is looking up!