South Korea's leading discount store chain E-Mart has reassured Chinese customers it will offer quality produce,in a bid to grab a larger share in the world's most populous market, company officials said Tuesday.
E-Mart, an affiliate of South Korea's second-largest retailer Shinsegae Co., opened its first Chinese outlet in February 1997 and now has 27 stores mostly in the northeastern region of China.
China has been wrestling with food safety issues recently, as a series of illnesses and scandals were linked to tainted food. The Chinese authorities have introduced tougher measures to ensure food safety.
E-Mart said it has stepped up efforts to provide fresh, healthy produce to its Chinese customers, who prefer to shop for unpackaged raw food products.
"As more and more Chinese customers put priority on living standards and quality of life, they are looking for stores they can put trust in," said Feng Jingsong, the E-Mart official in charge of purchasing produce in China. "E-Mart has an advantage (over its peers), as it has always put the top priority on quality."
Some market watchers predict that China will surpass the United States as the largest consumer market by 2020, with retail sales expected to reach $2.4 trillion.
E-Mart said earlier that it will continue to expand its stores into small and medium-size cities and into the western region of China, shifting its focus from the country's metropolitan cities.
By 2015, E-Mart aims to increase the number of its stores in China to 45, following the restructuring of stores that have been making losses.
Last year, the company registered a net loss of 75 billion won (US$68.6 million) from its China business.
Smaller homegrown rival Lotte Mart has operated 81 stores in China since 2007. In 2010, the company recorded a net loss of 15 billion won in China.