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Overall retail sales inch down 0.4 percent in February 2019-04-02

The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy announced on March 28 that Korea’s overall retail sales in February inched down 0.4 percent compared to the same period last year. While offline retail sales fell 7.1 percent, online retail sales gained 12.0 percent.
The decline in sales at brick-and-mortar stores was mostly caused by the effect of the Seollal holiday that fell on February 5 this year. Last year, the same holiday fell on February 16. The earlier holiday meant greater demand for gift sets in January rather than in February. The most affected type of stores was hypermarkets.

Meanwhile, sales at online retailers posted growth. Fine dust-related consumer products and office supplies were in greater demand ahead of spring when school starts.

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: nine major online sellers and four online shopping intermediaries.

Among the types of offline retailers, the convenience stores were the only type that saw improvement in sales. All of the other types experienced decreases.

Sales at the convenience store chains expanded 3.7 percent. This is attributable to the increased number of stores as well as higher demand for quasi-drugs and food. For food, imported beers and instant meals were especially popular.

The SSM operators saw a sales decline of 3.1 percent. Because of the earlier holiday, food was in lower demand in February.

Sales at the department stores also dropped 8.1 percent due to falling sales of clothing. Sales of women’s suits, women’s casuals, men’s clothing, and kids and sports items all contracted primarily because of the warmer weather. Global brands were the only category that saw growth.

Hypermarkets experienced a sales decrease of 13.7 percent. Decreases were experienced by all categories, including food and household goods.

For web-based retailers, on the other hand, sales improved at both online sellers and online shopping intermediaries.

The nine online sellers saw a sales growth of 8.3 percent because of growing popularity for office suppliers and air purifiers. In addition, sales of domestic travel packages increased because they were on promotion. This also contributed to the expansion.

Sales at the four online shopping intermediaries jumped 13.4 percent on the back of increased sales of home appliances and household goods.

By product, all item categories saw growth in sales, except for food and fashion/accessories. Food sales slowed down 9.4 percent, and sales of fashion/accessories shrank 3.0 percent. Among those with the largest sales growth were global brands (up 16.4 percent) and home appliances/culture (up 13.3 percent).

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