Lockdown Changes Fortunes of Sports-Dependent Businesses

  • By Jin Joong-eon

    July 15, 2020 12:05

    The coronavirus epidemic is causing seismic shifts in the landscape of sports-dependent businesses.

    Previously thriving stores around baseball stadiums are suffering as matches take place without spectators, with the commercial areas surrounding stadiums in Seoul as well as Busan, Daejeon and Gwangju hit hard.

    A restaurant street near Jamsil Baseball Stadium in Seoul is deserted on July 8.

    Despite emergency relief money handed out by the government to small businesses, stores and restaurants around baseball stadiums are still suffering.

    But lockdown has proved a boon for shops around golf courses across the country. Golf courses with their easy social distancing are fully booked both on weekdays and weekends and revenues are soaring at nearby restaurants.

    Pubs and snack carts around Jamsil Baseball Stadium in Seoul were almost empty at around 10 p.m. on Tuesday. The owner of one restaurant in the neighborhood said, "Things weren't this bad even during the Asian financial crisis. The minimum wage hike and baseball games being played without spectators have simply been devastating for business."

    The situation is the same around baseball stadiums outside Seoul. Oh Se-kyun (40), who owns a grilled-duck restaurant near Hanwha Life Insurance Eagles Park in Daejeon said, "I laid off four out of six workers after customer traffic ground to a halt."

    And a realtor working near Sajik Baseball Stadium in Busan said, "After people stopped coming to baseball games, rents in the area declined 10 to 20 percent."

    According to analysis by Korea Credit Data, which manages the credit-card transactions of 660,000 small businesses in the country, sales in restaurants around Jamsil Stadium declined 26 percent in the week from June 22 to 28 compared to a year ago.

    By comparison, the commercial district of Bangi-dong just 2.5 km away saw revenues drop only 18 percent, while the average decline across Seoul was 14 percent.

    Around Daejeon's baseball stadium, sales plunged 32 percent compared to an average 13 percent decline in the city.

    A parking lot is full of cars at a golf course in Icheon, Gyeonggi Province on Tuesday.

    But business is booming near golf courses. Sales in restaurants in Icheon, Gyeonggi Province, where four golf clubs are clustered, have surpassed last year's levels for eight weeks running since the middle of May. One restaurant staffer there said, "Customers keep coming in from 5 a.m. on weekends."

    Most golf courses around the country are fully booked almost every day, and many have confidently raised their rounding and caddie fees to benefit from the situation.

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