Photo caption: In Tae Kim in front of his Lynnwood HMart store. Photo credit: Tae Lee.

Every business owner knows the formula for success is a good idea and great execution.

HMart, short for “Han Ah Reum” (meaning “one arm full of groceries” in Korean), started in 1982. It began as a small grocery store designed to serve a modest but growing population of Korean customers in Queens, New York.

HMart has always carried a wide variety of pan-Asian products, which led to a diverse and loyal customer base — a key component to its growth.

Thirty-one years later, HMart has expanded to more than 60 locations in the United States and Canada. In Western Washington, the three stores in Lynnwood, Federal Way and Tacoma enjoy strong business sales. Two additional locations are scheduled to open next year, including one in downtown Seattle, where Nordstrom Rack was formerly located. To serve their thousands of customers a day, HMart knew investing in technology would be critical to their success. In Tae Kim, general manager of the Lynnwood store that opened in 2008, said his store relies heavily on Internet for credit card processing and website management. With the volume of customers they see, he asserts, “speed is critical.”

Kim worked with Comcast Business to set up his high-speed Internet, telephone and television services for the Lynnwood store. Free long-distance between the U.S. and Canada helps the business in its international dealings. The store also installed television monitors at each of its checkout lanes, a unique service offered to its customers waiting in lines. Four additional televisions are planned for its popular food court.

Comcast Business is a unit of Comcast Cable. It provides advanced communication solutions to help organizations of all sizes meet their business objectives.

Kim, described what makes the grocery chain unique.

“[Our] international food selection, quality Asian deli products, a broad and diverse fish inventory that is flown in weekly from around the world and fresh vegetables and fruit at prices lower than what the typical customer will find at a mainstream grocery store chain,” he said.And his typical customer isn’t always Korean. Kim said at his Lynnwood HMart location, only 30 to 35 percent of its customers are of Korean heritage. HMart’s efforts to provide a wide array of products across Asian ethnic groups and situating their business in key locations across the Puget Sound have made their chain accessible to a wide demographic. The HMart Lynnwood location also houses several other ethnic businesses.

AmorePacific Cosmetics is one.

Founded in South Korea in 1932 and expanded to the U.S. in 1976, AmorePacific has approximately 50 locations across the country with two in Washington state, including one at the Neiman Marcus in Bellevue.

Sook Namkung, owner of the Lynnwood franchise, relocated her store there in 2012 after experiencing less than ideal traffic at a former location. She had been with AmorePacific for 15 years and, after the move, saw her sales increase.

Unlike HMart, most of her customers are Korean. The cosmetic company already has a strong reputation for high-quality products in Korea, and the name recognition resonates well with clients from the Korean community.

She also signed up for Comcast Business, working with a local, bi-lingual representative. With the service, she was able to set up AmorePacific’s point-of-sale (POS) client management system, which allows her to store information about each client’s skin type, skin test results, preferences and past sales history. This data — combined with Namkung’s advanced training in cosmetology and knowledge of the cosmetic industry — enables her to provide highly personalized, client-focused customer service.

“If we didn’t have Comcast, we couldn’t do business because of (our reliance on) the POS (point-of-sale),” Namkung said.

Namkung also shared that Comcast’s high-speed Internet service enables her to use security cameras to monitor the store from home. As an owner of a small franchise location, this provides her peace of mind while she is off-site.

Both Kim and Namkung asserted that the role of technology in making their businesses thrive was a crucial one. It gave them the competitive edge they needed to succeed in todays’ market where businesses are competing for consumers’ attention and dollars. In the end, it’s about providing the best customer experience they can, and it’s worth the investment.

Special thanks to Tae Lee, Business Account Executive for Comcast, who provided interpretation services during the interviews.

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