Starbucks to test cashless stores in South Korea

Starbucks Coffee Korea, the local unit of the U.S. coffee giant, said Thursday it will begin a test run of cashless stores at three outlets next month amid rising use of credit card and mobile payment systems.

The stores at the country’s major office districts — Gangnam and Guro in Seoul, and Pangyo, just south of the capital — have been tapped to start testing the new system April 23, according to the company.

When launched, it will mark the second trial for the global coffee giant, following its first cashless store under test run in Seattle, the United States, it said.

Paying with cash has been constantly declining at Starbucks stores in South Korea, from 31 percent of the total in 2010 to 15 percent in 2013 and 7 percent last year, the company said.

According to government data, daily credit card spending in South Korea hit a record-high average of 1.76 trillion won ($41.65 billion) last year.

“As our customers’ mobile payments and use of credit cards continue to increase, we want to provide a more innovative and seamless payment experience through this trial,” said Lee Seock-koo, the head of the Korean unit.

Starbucks Coffee Korea plans to analyze the impact of the cashless system and reflect the findings in its operations.

The U.S. coffee giant, which opened its first Korean branch near Ewha Womans University in Seoul in 1999, had 1,140 stores throughout the country as of last year.

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