The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy announced on January 28 that Korea’s retail sales in 2020 expanded 5.5 percent compared to 2019, thanks to strong online sales (up 18.4 percent). Brick-and-mortar sales fell 3.6 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 SSM operators. The other half are online retailers.
For offline retailers, the sales at the convenience stores chains increased, while those at the SSM operators, the department store chains, and the hypermarkets decreased due to reduced outdoor activities and uses of crowded facilities.
Sales at the convenience store chains inched up 2.4 percent as life necessities (up 4.7 percent), foods (up 2.1 percent), and cigarettes (up 4.9 percent) increased in sales.
Meanwhile, those at SSM operators saw a sales decline of 4.8 percent because people refrained from visiting offline stores. Both food (down 3.9 percent) and non-food (down 12.2 percent) products lost in sales.
The department store chains went down 9.8 percent in sales. Women’s casuals (down 32.0 percent), women’s suits (down 26.1 percent), and men’s clothing (down 19.5 percent) experienced significant declines.
Sales at the hypermarket chains edged down 3.0 percent as all item categories decreased.
For online retailers, the COVID-19 pandemic drove up the demand for online shopping, and food products (up 51.5 percent), household goods (up 25.3 percent), and most other product categories greatly expanded.
For December 2020, retail sales posted a year-on-year growth of 9.0 percent with online sales growing 27.2 percent and offline sales slowing down 4.4 percent.
With regards to offline retailers, the convenience stores (up 2.7 percent), SSMs (up 4.0 percent), and hypermarket chains (up 2.1 percent) showed growth, but sales at the department stores experienced a sharp decline (down 16.9 percent).
Sales per store decreased at department stores (down 15.5 percent) and convenience stores (down 2.8 percent), but increased at hypermarket chains (up 4.6 percent) and SSM operators (up 11.0 percent).
Online retailers experienced the largest growth in sales (up 27.2 percent) since February 2020 on the back of year-end discount events and a continued upward trend in online shopping.
By product, sales of home appliances/culture (up 25.6 percent), food products (up 18.6 percent), household goods (up 16.2 percent), and global brands (up 9.2 percent) posted growth, while fashion/accessories (down 17.7 percent), kids/sports (down 3.8 percent), and services/others (down 6.3 percent) contracted.