|South Korea's Department Store Sales Rise By Least in 5 Months|
By Seyoon Kim
Aug. 18 (Bloomberg) -- South Korea's department store sales increased at the slowest pace in five months in July, adding to evidence consumers are curtailing their spending and slowing the economy's expansion.
Sales at the nation's three biggest chains rose 5.9 percent from a year earlier, easing from June's 11.2 percent gain, the Ministry of Knowledge Economy said in Gwacheon today.
Moderating spending will further cool an economy that grew at the weakest annual pace in more than a year last quarter. Households, struggling with surging living costs, have reined in purchases of non-essential goods, which may erode earnings at retailers such as Lotte Shopping Co., the nation's largest department store operator.
The Kospi stock index has dropped 17 percent this year amid signs of cooling economic growth. Shares in Lotte Shopping have fallen 29 percent this year, and those in Hyundai Department Store Co., the second biggest, have slumped 26 percent.
Consumer confidence fell to the lowest level in eight years in July. The economy expanded 4.8 percent last quarter from a year earlier, the slowest pace since the start of 2007.
Spiraling food and fuel prices have eroded household budgets. Consumer prices climbed 5.9 percent in July, the biggest gain since 1998.
The Bank of Korea lifted its benchmark interest rate to an eight-year high of 5.25 percent this month, the first increase in a year, to quell inflation.
Spending on men's clothes fell 6.6 percent in July from last year, today's report showed. In contrast, sales of luxury goods at department stores gained 30.7 percent.
Sales at discount stores rose 2.1 percent last month from a year earlier, reversing a 1.9 percent drop in June.
To contact the reporter on this story: Seyoon Kim in Seoul at firstname.lastname@example.org
Last Updated: August 17, 2008 17:00 EDT