SEOUL, March 7 (Reuters) - Sales at South Korea’s top department and discount stores in February grew simultaneously in annual terms for the first time in 11 months, preliminary data showed on Thursday, rebounding from record declines a month earlier.
Sales at department stores run by Hyundai Department Store , Lotte Shopping and Shinsegae last month rose 1.1 percent from a year earlier, the finance ministry estimated in a monthly report. The result compared with an 8.2 percent year-on-year decline in January, and marked the first annual rise since November 2012.
Sales at the country’s top three discount store chains last month rose 10.2 percent from a year earlier, recovering from a 24.6 percent decline in January and marking the sharpest pace of growth since January 2011.
February, based on the estimates, marks the first month since March 2012 in which sales grew at both the top department and discount store chains. The finance ministry attributed the pickup to demand stemming from the Lunar New Year holidays.
Sales of locally produced automobiles fell 13.5 percent from a year earlier, however, marking the biggest decline since August 2012 due to fewer working days and reduced demand after the government’s tax break for car purchases expired in December.
Gasoline sales by volume fell 8.9 percent as higher prices and heavy snow weighed on demand.
The ministry said wages continue to rise in real terms as inflation has eased, but warned that growth in private consumption is likely to remain constrained due to households’ debt servicing requirements and falling property prices.
The Ministry of Knowledge Economy will release revised February department and discount store sales data later this month. (Reporting by Se Young Lee; Editing by Chris Gallagher)