MERS triggers a spike in June online retail sales

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MERS triggers a spike in June online retail sales

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Online retail sales in Korea jumped 26 percent in June from a year earlier, and shopping on mobile phones surged nearly 80 percent, partly driven by the outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome virus, which kept shoppers out of brick and mortar stores.

Statistics Korea data showed Monday that sales on Korean online shopping malls hit 4.4 trillion won ($3.7 billion) in June, accounting for 15 percent of total retail sales. That ratio was the highest ever since Statistics Korea started collecting the data in the current form.

“We assume that MERS had an impact on online sales,” said Shin Gwang-hyeon, an official at Statistics Korea, by phone. “In June 2014, online sales expanded only 14.1 percent on a yearly basis, but the growth rose to 26.6 percent this June.”

Shopping by smartphone is a rising trend, according to the data. Total sales via mobile phones in June stood at 1.97 trillion won, surging 79.8 percent from a year earlier.

Retail sales by mobile phones accounted for 44.6 percent of total online sales, the data showed.

“As applications for shopping develop, users are increasingly shopping on their mobile phones,” Shin said. “The volume of sales on mobile phones in June was also the highest since we collected the figures in 2013.”

The most products sold on online shopping malls in June were tour packages and flight or hotel reservation services, accounting for 16 percent of total shopping by mobile phones.

Home appliances, electronics and phones stood at 11.6 percent, and clothes and daily necessities recorded about 10 percent each.

Sales at local department stores plunged 12.4 percent in June from a year earlier, and 9.5 percent at large supermarkets such as E-Mart.

On average, including online sales, total retail sales dropped 0.6 percent year-on-year.


BY KIM HEE-JIN [kim.heejin@joongang.co.kr]

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