Virus boosts CU sales faster than MERS did

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Virus boosts CU sales faster than MERS did

Face masks and other popular products for defense against the coronavirus are selling faster than during earlier outbreaks, according to CU convenience stores in Korea.

The retailer compared revenues from the sale of masks, hand sanitizers, mouthwash, health supplements, lunch boxes and fresh fruit during the Jan. 20 to Feb. 16 period and the May 20 to June 16, 2015, period, when Korea was fighting the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) outbreak.

In the 2015 outbreak, 186 people were confirmed infected, and 38 people died.

According to the convenience store’s analysis, mask sales in the recent period were 67.6 percent higher than in the 2015 period.

Hand sanitizer sales were up 30.2 percent, while mouthwash sales increased 18.9 percent. The sale of pharmaceuticals at the convenience stores, like cold medicines and fever remedies, increased by 57.2 percent.

The fastest sale increases were for products that contain ingredients like ginseng, vitamins and probiotics.

Sales in this category were up more than ninefold from the 2015 period.

CU believes that customers were more sensitive to the latest outbreak, already having experienced MERS, which had a mortality rate of 20 percent, and watching the disease spread in China.

“The government was fast to publicize preventive measures, and that created more of a boost in demand for relevant products than MERS,” said Yoon Seok-woo, head of the big data team at CU’s operator BGF Retail.

Apart from the virus-fighting goods, the convenience store also noted an increase in instant food sales, which it believes was due to people refraining from traveling to shopping.

Lunch box sales rose 32.2 percent. Instant side dish sales were up 29 percent, while the sales of fresh ingredients and fruits - which consumers usually buy at supermarkets - increased by 27 percent. Delivery orders jumped 68.5 percent, CU said.

BY SONG KYOUNG-SON [song.kyoungson@joongang.co.kr]

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