SEJONG, Oct. 2 (Yonhap) - South Korea’s retail sales inched up in August from a year earlier as consumer confidence made a modest recovery amid the receding Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) scare, a government report showed Friday.
Retail sales reached slightly over 29.39 trillion won (US$24.95 billion) in the cited month, up 0.3 percent from 29.31 trillion won tallied a year earlier, according to the report by Statistics Korea. The number, however, was down from 30.21 trillion won reached in July.
“There is a steady rise in consumer confidence with gains being notable in consumer electronics and telecommunication equipments,” an official at the statistical agency said.
He said consumer confidence has received a boost as concerns over MERS have receded significantly.
After the first case was confirmed on May 20, the respiratory illness claimed 36 lives, but no new cases have been reported since July 4. The government on Thursday said the last person diagnosed as having contracted the potentially deadly disease tested negative for the MERS virus.
Sales of consumer electronics and communications equipment jumped 7.9 percent, with food and beverages edging up 0.4 percent on-year. Furniture sales were also up a solid 9.3 percent.’
Department stores and large discount outlets posted negative growth of 5 percent and 6.6 percent, respectively, although such losses were offset by gains reported by convenience stores and supermarkets that rose 36.9 percent and 4.6 percent, respectively.
The agency said the on-year drop came as the major Chuseok harvest holiday fell in late September this year instead of earlier in the month, which was the case in 2014. The three-day holiday, celebrated according to the lunar calendar, causes high demand for goods and food, boosting retail numbers.
Online shopping sales rose 11.3 percent on-year to 4.33 trillion won in August, fueled by brisk demand for miscellaneous goods, cosmetics and telecommunication equipment. Online shopping accounted for 14.7 percent of all retail sales in the one-month period.
Purchases made through smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices soared 52.4 percent on-year to 2.19 trillion won, accounting for 46.6 percent of all online sales in August, according to the report.