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Abstract

The success story of E-mart fascinated many academics and practitioners alike. Though E-mart began as a nameless discount store in Chang-dong, Seoul in 1993, it has transformed itself into a leading distribution company and one of the most powerful brands in Korea. Surprisingly, it achieved the great success against the two crises it met: the national economic crisis and the invasion of the global giant Walmart. The main objective of this case study is to formally examine how E-mart overcame the two crises. More specifically, this case study highlights the ways with which E-mart turned those difficulties into opportunities for growth. In our examination of the E-mart case, we could clearly see E-mart`s competence and spirit that allowed it to turn crises into advantageous opportunities. E-mart attracted the customers who wanted value-oriented consumption by its positioning as the “Lowest price discount store', when consumer sentiment was frozen under the economic crisis. Furthermore, when a large-scale foreign discount store like Walmart entered the Korea market, E-mart built its core competencies as the ‘Korean style discount store’. These ingenious positioning and efforts resulted in E-mart taking over their archrival, Walmart, and forced the global Goliath to exit the Korean market. The case of E-mart`s effective crisis management teaches many important lessons and a few core lessons that apply to many companies. One such lesson is the importance of positioning which enabled E-mart to turn crises into opportunities. Granted, the strategy of positioning as the ‘Korean style discount store``, or ’Lowest price discount store`` was possible due to overall support with cost reduction, development and management of their own system, an apprentice educate system, etc. based on an excellent selection of location of the store and efficient distribution systems. Still, the positioning strategy of E-mart was truly ground breaking in distancing itself from its competitors. The lessons from E-mart will help those companies currently in a stagnant situation or a crisis to turn their obstacles into great success.

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