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Retail sales in Korea drop 3.3% in March 2020-04-28

The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy announced on April 28 that Korea’s online and offline retailers in March saw a year-on-year decrease of 3.3 percent. Brick-and-mortar stores experienced a sales decrease of 17.6 percent, while sales at online retailers grew by 16.9 percent.

The Ministry releases monthly retail sales figures based on surveys of 26 major retailers. Half of them are brick-and-mortar retailers: three department store chains, three hypermarket chains, three convenience store chains, and four super supermarket (SSM) operators. The other half are online retailers.

For offline retailers, all types except for SSMs posted decline as the spread of the coronavirus continued.

Sales at convenience stores fell 2.7 percent and recorded the first drop in sales since the reorganization of retail statistics in June 2016. As the school opening was postponed, sales of processed foods (down 3.1 percent) and instant foods (down 14.5 percent) decreased.

Sales at department stores also dropped 40.3 percent due to reduced in-store visits. Global brands decreased (down 19.4 percent) for the first time since June 2016, and both women’s casual apparel (down 58.7 percent) and men’s clothing (down 51.3 percent) fell greatly.

Hypermarkets experienced a sales decrease of 13.8 percent as a result of declines in sales of clothing (down 50.6 percent), sports (down 41.4 percent), and household goods (down 20.0 percent).

Meanwhile, SSM operators saw a sales increase of 5.5 percent. Demand for food and snacks improved as more people worked from home. Sales increases were seen in fresh and prepared food (up 17.9 percent); processed food (up 5.0 percent); and agricultural products, fisheries, and livestock products (up 3.1 percent).
The 13 online sellers saw a sales growth of 16.9 percent on the back of growing preference for non-face-to-face transactions amid the COVID-19 outbreak. Sales of food (up 75.4 percent) and household goods (up 33.3 percent) grew significantly. However, social distancing guidelines encouraged people to refrain from enjoying outdoor activities and traveling, and sales of fashion/clothing (down 6.5 percent) and services/others (down 25.1 percent) decreased.

By product, home appliances/culture (up 4.7 percent), food (up 9.7 percent) and household goods (up 6.2 percent) saw improvements in sales while fashion/accessories (down 30.1 percent), services/others (down 12.7 percent), kids/sports (down 11.0 percent), and global brands (down 19.4 percent) saw decreases.


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