Korea retail sales took a surprise turn for the worst in December after three consecutive months of solid growth.
Reported sales by department stores run by Hyundai Department Store, Lotte Shopping and Shinsegae Co show a 5.7 per cent fall year-on-year, according to figures released by the the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy on Tuesday.
For the whole 2015 year, department store sales fell a modest 1.2 per cent, mainly due to the outbreak of Mers mid-year, and a rise in online shopping.
The government attributed the December fall to warmer weather compared with the previous year, which may prompt one to speculate on January’s figures given the unusual cold snap hitting the country this month. The warmer climate meant fewer sales of winter clothing.
Sales of luxury watches, jewellery and household electronics also fell.
The December fall was the largest monthly year-on-year drop since 6.5 per cent last August. Sales rose by 1 per cent in November.
Sales at South Korea’s major discount department stores fell 5.1 per cent, the third consecutive monthly decline and the largest since August.
For the whole of 2015, discount department store sales fell 2.1 per cent.
The Ministry said discounters’ December performance was affected by the warm weather and softening demand for food products.