SEOUL, May 17 (Xinhua/GNA) — Sales at South Korea’s major discount outlets and department stores contracted last month due to weak demand for groceries and clothes, a government report showed Thursday.


Total sales at the country’s three leading discount chains, including E-Mart, Lotte mart and Homeplus, declined 2.4 percent in April from a year earlier, down from a 3.2 percent on-year expansion tallied in the previous month, according to the Ministry of Knowledge Economy.


The decline was attributed to weak demand for food items stemming from a hike in fishery products and the outbreak of mad cow disease in the United States, the ministry said.


Sales of sports items increased 4.1 percent on-year in April as the introduction of the five-day school week boosted leisure activities, but food sales, which account for more than half of sales by the key discount chains, reduced 3.3 percent.


Sales of consumer electronics and daily household goods shrank 6.1 percent and 0.2 percent each on-year in April, and those for miscellaneous products decreasing 4.7 percent.


Meanwhile, combined sales at the three major department stores, including Lotte, Shinsegae and Hyundai, retreated 3.4 percent on- year in April, down from a 2.9 percent on-year growth a month before.


The April contraction came as strong demand for sports-related goods and outdoor items during the spring season were offset by underperformance in clothes and consumer electronics caused by unseasonably warmer weather conditions.


Sales of youth sporting goods expanded 7.1 percent on-year in April, but sales of women’s suits and men’s clothing shrank 8.1 percent and 9.4 percent respectively.


Luxury goods sales contracted 5.9 percent in April from a year earlier, while sales of household goods and miscellaneous products declined 7.5 percent and 5.1 percent each.


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