Food shopping shows signs of MERS

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Food shopping shows signs of MERS

Fear about Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) may be encouraging Koreans to do their grocery shopping from home via online and mobile shopping malls, instead of going out to restaurants or grocery stores.

According to transactions compiled by the retail industry on Wednesday, major online malls saw sales escalate for food products like ramen noodles, fresh meat and canned goods.

At Auction, sales of ramen noodles went up 18 percent from May 20, when the first MERS case was announced, through Monday, compared to the previous week.

During the period, sales of instant rice and soup also rose 11 percent and canned goods 60 percent.

At Gmarket, pork sales rose 15 percent, seaweed 14 percent and processed food 43 percent.

“After MERS infections spread last weekend, overall sales of food products rose,” said Hong Yoon-hee, a spokeswoman for Auction, adding the trend may continue as people become more concerned about mingling with people outside their homes.

Delivery-based restaurants and convenience stores are also beneficiaries, seeing increases in deliveries and lunch-box sales.

While online markets are smiling, grocery stores and large chain markets are trying to hold onto their customers.

At E-Mart, sales from Friday through Tuesday after MERS broke out were 1.2 percent lower than the same period last year.

“The drop in sales was small following the national holiday [Buddha’s Birthday] earlier in the week because consumers typically spend less after holidays,” said Kwon Min-hee, an E-Mart spokeswoman, adding that there wasn’t much of a change in online and mobile grocery orders since the MERS crisis began.

The company announced on Wednesday it has beefed up sanitary control of each E-Mart location, placing extra hand sanitizer dispensers and antibacterial wipes inside stores and practicing extra sterilization on moving walks, carts and baskets.

All employees at fresh food and free-sample booths, who have direct contact with customers, also were ordered to wear masks.

Reduction of activities also is happening at workplaces.

Samsung Group on Wednesday postponed new employee training programs scheduled for today and tomorrow. It was the first time the conglomerate has ever made such a decision.

Samsung Electronics also canceled a college visit program, initially scheduled for yesterday.


BY KIM JI-YOON [kim.jiyoon@joongang.co.kr]

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