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Business trends

Startups vs chaebol: Inside South Korea's delivery wars

Competition heats up as coronavirus drives demand for meal and grocery services

The coronavirus pandemic has boosted demand for South Korea's emerging delivery market but it has also pushed up costs.   © Reuters

SEOUL -- Online grocery shopping has become a daily habit for Lim Soo-hyang. The 40-year-old homemaker orders milk, snacks, instant noodles and chicken for her six-member family through an E-Mart app on her smartphone. "It's easy and convenient. I can't remember when I last visited a brick-and-mortar store," Lim said.

Lim is far from alone. South Korea's delivery market was already enjoying healthy growth before the coronavirus pandemic. Now, the outbreak is further fueling demand for online grocery delivery services due to remote working and strict social distancing rules. According to the government data, combined sales of 13 online retailers increased 13.4% in July year-on-year, while that of 13 offline retailers fell 2.1%. E-Mart's online subsidiary SSG.COM had a strong first half, with sales jumping 61% to 618.8 billion won from a year ago.

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