Mobile convenience stores are the brainchild of South Korea's convenience store chain CU, which has renovated cargo trucks to meet on-site customers at festivals and other outdoor gatherings. The service began in 2009, gaining popularity, but the pandemic grounded CU's mobile trucks in early 2020.
"CU's mobile convenience stores are fully prepared to improve the convenience of customers who visit local festivals in time for the endemic and further help revitalize the local economy," Yoon Hyun-soo, an official from BGF Retail, the operator of CU, said in a statement on May 25.
CU operates a total of four mobile stores. A 3.5-ton truck is equipped with shelves for snacks and instant noodles known as ramyeon as well as a refrigerated display case that stores beverages and ice cups. It has the same point of sale (POS) system as the actual store. A POS – or Point of Sale – is where customers pay for a product or service. POS systems integrate an inventory database with a checkout terminal and payment processing.
Two 1.2-ton trucks have cooking appliances where customers can make easy-to-cook food such as fried menus. The container type can handle most products with a structure similar to general small stores such as refrigerated showcases and small freezers.
CU's mobile stores target customers enjoying outdoor festivals. Sales of stores around subway stations and bus stops in downtown areas can rise up to 10 times if a festival takes place nearby. CU resumed the operation of mobile stores at four festivals in May 2022 when South Korea eased tight social distance rules on outdoor activities. Some 10 festival operators have requested the operation of CU's stores for events in June 2022.
"Before the pandemic came, the average number of requests for our mobile stores stood at 40 every year, with customers and (festival) organizers highly satisfied," Yoon said.
About 2,000 people visited a mobile convenience store at a Children's Day festival on May 5 at a public park in Cheonan some 84 kilometers (52 miles) south of Seoul. In 13 hours of operation, the mobile store generated sales about 2.4 times bigger than the daily average of nearby indoor CU stores. Beverages and bottled water were the most popular, accounting for 8.1 percent of total sales, followed by ice cream with 19.9 percent. Wet tissues, sanitary pads and hand sanitizers cornered 7.5 percent.
Mobile stores are gaining popularity at home, but CU is also receiving love calls from abroad. In 2019, BGF Retail exported a mobile convenience store that renovated a five-ton truck to Central Express, a retailer in Mongolia.
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