Shopping a matter of convenience

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Shopping a matter of convenience

Rapid lifestyle changes in Korean homes are having a huge impact on the local retail industry.

Sales of single portion microwaveable meals are on the rise thanks to a growing number of single-person households.

More people do most of their shopping at the nearest convenience store rather than high-end department stores or big discount chains.

According to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy on Wednesday, sales at convenience stores rose 31.4 percent last month compared to the same month a year earlier. Particularly notable were increases in sales of lunch boxes and other pre-cooked food products such as boiled eggs.

Single-person households accounted for 23.9 percent of the total population in 2010, which was 19.1 percentage points higher than in the 1980s, according to a Statistics Korea report released this month.

“Hikes in cigarette prices helped convenience stores do better last month,” the ministry said in a press release Tuesday. “Additionally, there were many customers who bought mobile phone chargers and medicine at these stores.”

By item, sales of household goods and pre-cooked food products rose 23.5 percent and 52.4 percent respectively from the previous year. Total transactions increased by 19.4 percent in February and monthly sales at convenience stores have continued to rise compared to the year-ago period starting from 2013.

On the flip side, sales at large retail and department stores decreased from a year ago.

Discount chains’ sales dropped 7 percent and sales at department stores’ fell 1.9 percent last month compared to a year earlier. At local department stores, food sales fell 16.6 percent from the previous year.

But sales of household goods and luxury items such as watches and jewelry rose last month.

The ministry said sales of these items rose after many department stores launched special promotions and exhibitions focusing on couples getting ready to marry.

The ministry said February is a volatile month due to the Lunar New Year holiday and Valentine’s Day. The Lunar New Year was Feb. 19 last year and Feb. 8 this year. As a result, some of the preparatory shopping was done in January.

Additionally, February was colder than the previous year so people who shop to redecorate their homes for spring put off purchases.

The average temperature for February was 0.2 degree Celsius (32.36 degrees Fahrenheit), 0.8 degrees lower than last year. Sales of bedroom accessories and cabinets fell significantly, according to the ministry.


BY KIM YOUNG-NAM [kim.youngnam@joongang.co.kr]

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