Hoarding in Korea faded after brief spike, data show

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Hoarding in Korea faded after brief spike, data show

While hoarding of necessities has been well-documented throughout the globe as coronavirus outbreaks have swept through many countries, data released Thursday by one of Korea’s top logistics companies showed the country’s spike in demand for essential items was fairly short-lived.

CJ Logistics on Thursday published 180 million parcel delivery records, spanning the period from Feb. 1 through March 14, to study the impact of the novel coronavirus on Korea’s retail deliveries.

As of last year, CJ Logistics accounted for 47.2 percent of Korea’s logistics business.

Delivery orders of items including bottled water, ramen and canned food tripled from Feb. 23 to Feb. 29, according to the company. Orders appeared to have particularly surged for three days, from Feb. 21 to Feb. 23, after news broke Feb. 18 that Korea’s Patient No. 31 had attended the Shincheonji church’s worship services in Daegu. The person is believed to have eventually caused thousands of infections in the ensuing weeks.

But as measured by CJ Logistics’ data, the hoarding movement quickly died down. Online orders for ramen deliveries fell 39 percent in the first week of last month compared to a week earlier and fell an additional 33 percent in the second week of last month.

The number of orders of bottled water also soon recovered to normal levels, dropping 44 percent in the first week of March, followed by a further 25 percent drop in the second week.

Still, orders for certain nonessential items increased last month. With the start of the spring semester postponed and many workers telecommuting to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, orders of coffee machines rose 22.5 percent, and baking supplies surged 61.6 percent in the second week of last month. Orders of fryers and yogurt makers also rose 21.3 percent and 30.2 percent, respectively.

Consumers also appeared to shift their buying habits to accommodate a more homebound lifestyle. A total of 1.7 million orders of books and records were delivered in the fourth week of February, up 13 percent from a week earlier.

From February through mid-March, the largest volume of parcel deliveries occurred in the first week of March, reaching a peak of 33 million after hitting 32 million the week before. The company’s busiest day came on Monday, April 2, with 9.6 million orders. Normally, the volume of delivery orders peaks on Monday and Tuesday, as consumers often shop online over the weekend.

BY CHU IN-YOUNG [kim.yeonah@joongang.co.kr]
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