New Lotte World Mall Experiences A Slow Start

kpopluv, Jan. 26, 2015, 10:05 a.m.

The sprawling halls of the new Lotte World mall in southern Seoul were eerily empty last Friday afternoon, usually peak shopping time for Korea's avid consumers. One store owner reported a marked drop in the number of customers since late December and says now only 20 to 30 people a day stop by.  "Sales have declined by around 70 percent and I wonder if I'll be able to stay in business," the owner added.

There were no fanfares as the gigantic mall marked its first 100 days in business on Friday. A series of accidents and construction flaws have plagued the new mall, keeping any customers away who are not already deterred by the draconian parking restrictions.

Despite an official conclusion by the Seoul Metropolitan Government after a series of inspections that the mall does not pose a safety risk to visitors, the discovery of leaks in its massive aquarium last month and tremors felt in the movie theater have spawned rumors that the entire structure could collapse due to weak foundations. 

Motorized customers are put off by the prohibitive parking costs, which are three times higher than in adjacent stores, and the need to reserve a parking space in advance. But the Seoul Metropolitan Government insisted on them to prevent massive traffic jams in the area.

Hardest hit are the 5,000 people working in the 965 stores.  Many shops have slashed prices by up to 70 percent or offer buy-one-get-one-free deals, but to no avail. One men's clothing store planned to end the cut-price campaign a week ago but decided to continue it. One staffer said, "Only seven customers bought clothes here today. The only way we can keep up sales is to slash prices." 

The manager of a cosmetics store nearby said, "Sales have fallen by around 70 percent compared to October and November last year. We had to lay off two workers, because we don't expect sales to improve for the time being."

Immediately after the vast monument to consumerism opened, daily visitors numbered 100,000, but that dwindled to 70,000 in December and 53,000 this month.  Staff are disgruntled by the media kerfuffle. One assistant at an outdoor wear store said, "A few leaks and cracks won't cause the entire building to collapse. It’s frustrating to see unconfirmed rumors and panic-mongering being accepted as fact."


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