SEOUL -- E-commerce operators and convenient stores pushed up the sales of South Korean retailers, reflecting changing lifestyles in Asia's fourth-largest economy, official data showed Thursday.
The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy said that sales in the nation's 13 major online retailers jumped 15.2% in May from a year ago, far higher than the 13 offline retailers whose sales rose merely 2.5% in the same period.
"Sales of online retailers have kept an upbeat trend, boosted by home appliances and clothing," the ministry said in a statement. In particular, direct online sales spiked 32.1% in May year-on-year, hitting the highest ratio since January 2016.
South Korea's consumption patterns are changing, as demand for online and mobile shopping rise and brick-and-mortar stores see less footfall, thanks to the developed internet infrastructure and increasing number of smartphone users. The country is known to have one of the world's fastest internet services while about 80% of its 51 million population use smartphones.
Among 13 major offline retailers, three convenient store brands -- CU, GS25 and 7-Eleven -- led the segment with a 10.5 % hike in combined sales. Convenient stores are expanding their presence quickly on the back of rising one-person households which account for a quarter of the population.
Analysts say that consumer sentiment will continue to recover, boosting retail shares. "Our investment opinion in retail industry is still overweight as consumer sentiment in the private sector will recover gradually," said Cha Jae-hyun, an analyst at Dongbu Securities. "It is time to invest in stocks which are undervalued."
However, the top three department stores -- Lotte, Hyundai and Shinsegae -- saw their aggregated sales decline 1.9%, hit mainly by an anti-graft law which has been effective since September last year. "Demand for gifts dropped in department stores, lowering sales in consumer goods by 8.3%," said the ministry.
Sales in three major discount chains -- Emart, Homeplus and Lotte Mart -- edged up 1.6%. Overall, retail sales increased 6.3% in May year-on-year. The ministry did not disclose a monetary figure.
E-Mart shares rose 3.05% to 236,500 won on Thursday on expectation that the company may post a better-than-expected performance in the second quarter. The benchmark KOSPI hit a fresh record high of 2,395.66, up 0.55%.