Ethnic retailers are gaining share and particularly relevance in the United States as population growth becomes more dependent on immigration and as all shoppers seek fresh healthy fare. Here we explore how H Mart thrives in the changing retail environment and demographics to become the biggest ethnic chain in North America.
Targeting the 5.3% Asian population in Massachusetts, this H Mart store in is known to the Asian community for its food court and French Asian bakery. The key traffic drivers to the store are the fresh produce section, the specialty prepared food department and the clean live seafood counter. The extended ethnic assortment and the in-store experience have been the point of differentiation among its competitors in Metro Boston. Celebrating its 30-year anniversary, H Mart continues to expand with its e-commerce capabilities, a Smart Card loyalty program and its marketing on PBS’s show, “Kimchi Chronicles”.
Ethnic assortment and ethnic brands
H Mart offers Asian products across categories from produce to hardware. National brand items occupy only 5% of the store, which are concentrated in the household cleaning supply and beverage sections of the store. Although H Mart specializes in Korean offerings, its multicultural selection also caters to Chinese, Japanese, Indian and Vietnamese customers.
By understanding the nostalgic needs and sentiments of its targeted ethnic groups, H Mart is able to strategically source products that help immigrants to reproduces their particular homemade flavors. H Mart utilizes their shopper insights and multinational talents to source the specific ethnic items and brands in reference to the need of the different generation groups.
Overall, H Mart excels in providing authentic ethnic offerings in the following three major areas: prepared food, fresh ingredients, and dry grocery.
Furthermore, H Mart reinforces its health and sustainable positioning through its slogan, “So Fresh, So Smart” and in-store marketing communications.
English-led, multi-lingual signage
The newly adopted signage at H Mart is led by English in order to create an open and welcoming environment to the diverse customer base in the United States – i.e. the many non ethnic foodies who are seeking greater adventure in preparing and eating healthy foods. The use of English-led signage offers opportunities for H Mart to broaden their English-speaking clientele in the neighborhood, while delivering customization to their targeted ethnic groups with the use of Korean and Chinese in the bottom of the signs.
Social Space and in-store dining
One of the biggest traffic drivers at this H Mart is their in-store dining area by the entrance. The front entrance of the store is anchored by the Fresh-Asian bakery, Tous Les Jours. Offering Korean, Japanese and Vietnamese cuisines, the food court contributes to a large part of H Mart customer’s shopping experience. The food court covers all three meals of the day as it retains customers to spend more time in the store regardless of their time of arrival.
H Mart is the first ethnic store-based supermarket in the United States to launch an e-commerce website. Hmart.com has a competitive advantage over other online grocers by offering specialty categories and reaching the under served ethnic communities in unreachable by their stores. Besides offering ethnic assortment online, H Mart also created an Online Affiliate page to promote business partnerships between suppliers and distributors who are interested in selling their products on hmart.com. Hmart.com also fully utilizes social media sharing as a marketing tool for their online offerings.
This H Mart store integrated the traditional Asian shopping experience in an American retail setting by rooting the ethnic elements in their supply chain and talents. H Mart demonstrates the customer service and operational capabilities needed in catering to ethnic customers. The assortment and augmented services matched and exceeded customer expectations due to its understanding of the cultures and the specific preparations of the ethnic cuisines. By prioritizing freshness in its store offerings, H Mart is gaining sales from both ethnic and non-ethnic groups for its healthy options.