MERS scare leads to condom slump

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MERS scare leads to condom slump

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Sales of condoms have suffered since the outbreak of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), while those of summer health foods including eel, chicken and abalone have jumped significantly in May, data from retailers showed.

Convenience store operator 7-Eleven on Tuesday said it has seen a substantial slowdown in condom sales following rapid growth earlier in the year. Condom sales had jumped earlier this year after the Constitutional Court struck down a law that outlawed adultery.

During the week of May 20 to 27, sales of condoms at 7,400 7-Eleven stores across the country jumped 27.3 percent compared with the same period a year ago. But since news of MERS dominated the headlines, condom sales have stagnated, increasing a mere 3.5 percent during the week of May 28 to June 4.

Looking at a broader period from Jan. 1 through June 4, condom sales had increased by 13.9 percent year-on-year.

“The slowdown appears to be related to MERS,” said a 7-Eleven official. “Worries about infections probably discouraged meetings between [people].”

In contrast, sales of foods considered to be good for the immune system jumped in May, which was also unusually hot.

Lotte Mart said sales of eel, chicken and abalone, which are viewed as summer health foods, increased substantially.

Eel sales spiked 410.6 percent, while those of chicken rose 44.6 percent in May compared with a year before. Sales of abalone rose 13.4 percent year-on-year.

“Usually summer starts from June, but summer weather came early this year, which has sparked demand for summer health foods earlier than usual,” said Byun Ji-hyun, a senior official at Lotte Mart in charge of marketing.

Big swings in temperatures from daytime to evening hours have increased the likelihood of catching a cold, adding to consumers’ interest in health foods, Lotte said.

According to the Korea Meteorological Administration, the average highest temperature across Korea during May was 25.1 degrees Celsius (77.2 degrees Fahrenheit), the highest level for the month of May since 1973. Temperatures in some areas exceeded 30 degrees Celsius.

Lotte said it expected sales of summer health foods to continue to rise in June as well.

“We want to offer popular health foods at better prices before summer gets into full swing,” Byun added.

From June 11 to 17 it will offer 500 grams (17.6 ounces) of chicken for as low as 2,900 won. Four abalones weighing around 55 to 60 grams will be sold for 10,000 won, and 700 grams of sea eel will be sold for 24,800 won.


BY PARK JUNG-YOUN, LEE HYUN-TAEK [park.jungyoun@joongang.co.kr]
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