Sales at major department stores edge up in first half

SEOUL, July 2 (Yonhap) -- Sales at South Korea's three major department stores edged up in the first six months of 2013, data showed Tuesday, despite the longstanding economic slowdown.

Still, giant retailers suffered a setback during the January-June period as South Korea mandated large retailers must shut their stores twice a month on Sundays or public holidays, and limit their operating hours to 10:00 a.m. to midnight.

Lotte Department Store, South Korea's largest department store and a unit of South Korea's No. 2 retailer Lotte Shopping Co., said its sales edged up 2.6 percent from a year ago. It said sales of outdoor clothing jumped 26 percent from a year ago while those of electronic goods increased 25 percent.

Hyundai Department Store Co., South Korea's third-largest department store chain, said its sales in the first half of this year edged up 2.1 percent from a year ago. It also said sales of outdoor clothing and other sportswear increased 22.3 percent from a year ago.

Shinsegae Department Store, a unit of Shinsegae Group, said its sales increased 3.3 percent from a year ago.

The three major retailers said their sales dropped in the first half of this year due to the business restrictions meant to protect struggling mom-and-pop stores and traditional marketplaces.

E-Mart, a discount chain operated by Shinsegae Group, said its sales declined 6.4 percent during the cited period.

Lotte Mart, the discount unit of Lotte Shopping, also said its sales dropped 5.7 percent from a year ago while Homeplus Co., the South Korean unit of British retail giant Tesco PLC, said its sales declined 5.9 percent.

Industry officials expect the sales of major retailers to further drop in the coming months as business restrictions on giant retailers are set to expand across the country in the second half of this year.

President Park Geun-hye has vowed to level the playing field for smaller firms in a country that has been dominated by family-controlled conglomerates for decades. She has also urged big business leaders to share their firms' growth with the larger community and to protect the business rights of mom-and-pop stores by staying away from some local commercial areas.

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