SEOUL, June 15 (Korea Bizwire) – South Koreans are increasingly turning to online channels for grocery shopping as they eschew their usual visits to grocers amid the continued spread of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), industry data showed Monday.
South Korea has reported 150 MERS infections since the first case was confirmed on May 20, the biggest outbreak outside of Saudi Arabia where the respiratory illness was first reported in 2012. Sixteen people have died as of Monday morning.
Data by the country’s three biggest grocers — E-mart, Home Plus and Lotte Mart – showed that online orders and order amounts have surged by two-digit figures as MERS infections and MERS-related deaths are on the rise.
Market leader E-mart saw its online sales soar 63.1 percent between June 1 and June 11, compared with the same period a year earlier. The number of orders also jumped 51.9 percent.
By product category, ready-to-cook home food sales shot up 90.1 percent followed by a 83 percent rise in fresh food and 69.9 percent increase in processed food.
Home Plus reported a 48.1 percent increase in online sales and a 37.5 percent rise in terms of order value. Lotte Mart saw its online sales grow 26.8 percent compared with a 10 percent sales slump at its brick-and-mortar branches.
The unprecedented spread of the potentially deadly virus has emerged as a bugbear for Asia’s fourth-largest economy that is already grappling with limping exports.
Last week, the central bank slashed the policy rate to a new low of 1.5 percent as part of “pre-emptive” efforts to prevent MERS from adversely effecting sentiment and consumption.