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Purchases show desire to stay in

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Home shopping networks have been increasing air time for advertising easy-to-make meals and healthy food products as concerns for the coronavirus continue. [LOTTE HOME SHOPPING]

Consumer choices in Korea changed sharply in response to the initial outbreak of the new coronavirus last month, according to statistics released by a popular home shopping TV network.

Lotte Home Shopping says its analysis of products during the first weeks of January showed consumers are staying in and focusing on their health. The company’s statistics show a significant increase in health and hygiene products, as well as prepared meals, while cosmetics and goods related to travel and outdoor activities declined.

Health supplements that claim to enhance immune systems surged in popularity. Sales of bee propolis tablets, ginseng, probiotics and vitamins increased by 137 percent compared to the same period last year.

With more people dining at home than going out, ingredients that claim to increase stamina, as well as Korean style-side dishes, or banchan, jumped in sales. Demand for instant meals also increased fivefold.

The network has responded to changing demands by altering the air time it gives to products. Lotte Home Shopping increased the airtime for hygienic products by 150 percent, it said, and doubled the amount of time it dedicated to selling health products and “home-ready” meals.

Compared with the same period last year, sales of skin care products increased by 77.3 percent - even though the two items had the same amount of air time. The network said it added cleaning and hygiene products to its lineup and sold more of those that were already present - including all-purpose cleaners, bathroom cleaning products, wet wipes and toilet paper.

Orders for cosmetics, including foundation and makeup, decreased by 31.6 percent. Sales of high-end goods and jewelry decreased by 14 percent.

While February is considered the peak season to sell travel packages, the shopping network stopped selling travel packages on its channel last month, around the time the virus began making inroads in Korea. In the same period last year, it aired 22 travel package products on its channel.

Lotte Home Shopping also decreased the airtime of sportswear and outerwear by 42 percent due to a decline in demand.

The home shopping industry forecasts the trend to continue on as more patients are confirmed with the virus.

“As people tend to stay home and are concerned about their health and safety, items related to improving one’s appearance are declining. The coronavirus outbreak drastically changed the shopping pattern of many consumers” said Kim Jong-yeong, a marketing director at Lotte Home Shopping.

He added, “We will change our network’s schedule and add new products to the lineup to quickly respond to changing needs of consumers.”

Shopping online and via mobile platforms is expected to increase further as the outbreak continues, as more customers avoid human contact.

E-commerce businesses such as Coupang and WeMakePrice saw substantial jumps in sales in 2015, when the Middle East respiratory syndrome broke out. Coupang’s “rocket delivery” service saw record numbers of deliveries following the initial outbreak of the coronavirus.

BY KWAK JAE-MIN [kang.jaeeun@joongang.co.kr]

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