Pernod Ricard Korea desperate for fresh start

Jean Touboul,
Pernod Ricard Korea CEO

By Lee Hyo-sik

Pernod Ricard Korea has been scrambling to prop up its declining sales under the leadership of new CEO Jean Touboul over the past six months.

The Korean unit of the French spirits maker has launched aggressive marketing to promote Imperial and other brands on the shrinking whisky market, as well as overhaul its organization into a more agile and function-oriented entity.

Striving for a fresh start, the company also decided to move its headquarters to north of the Han River, leaving southern Seoul where it chalks up nearly 20 percent of its sales in Korea.

Pernod Ricard plans to relocate to Seoul Square, near Seoul Station, in July when its current lease expires.

Its head office has been in southern Seoul since its establishment in 1992. Its larger rival Diageo Korea and other liquor makers continue to maintain their headquarters south of the Han River.

“We decided to move to Seoul Square, which is much more modern and spacious than our current building, to create a better workplace environment for employees,” a Pernod Ricard spokeswoman said.

“The company currently uses three floors, which makes it less convenient for employees to collaborate and communicate. When we are all on the same floor, it will help us accomplish more in a more efficient manner. The moving will be a new start for us.”

Touboul, who took over the struggling company last September, has been trying to reverse declining sales by reinforcing the firm’s sales network and introducing new marketing activities. But his efforts have yet to bear fruit.

In 2016, its whisky sales plunged 19.5 percent from the previous year when overall consumption fell only 4.5 percent. As a result, its market share dropped to 22.3 percent from 25.3 percent.

Homegrown whisky brand Golden Blue hiked its share to 20.9 percent from 16.1 percent, largely at the expense of Pernod Ricard. Industry leader Diageo Korea accounted for 37.2 percent of the market last year, inching down from 38.9 percent in 2015.

“It is true that we had a hard time last year. But that is all behind us. Under new management, things are improving for us,” the spokeswoman said. “In 2017, we will achieve a sharp turnaround, despite the overall market slump.”

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