On the day when the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that it was “pandemic” for the new coronavirus infection, one of the biggest grocery stores, ‘Lotte Mart’ looked quite, different from the panic buying situation of daily necessities overseas. The store was full of daily necessities, and not many customers. It was not much different from usual, as some customers sometimes put their daily necessities such as packed ramen and homemade food (HMR) in carts.
Kim Mi-sook, a 34-year-old housewife, said, “My husband, who always comes home late, eats dinner at home these days. So I bought some family snacks and ramen for my family until the weekend.
Sales of some daily necessities have been on the rise as the COVID-19 confirmed cases have spread across the country. The number of customers who are concerned about possible situations such as temporarily closing the mart for quarantine purposes or sealing off certain areas has increased.
Still, the fact that no “panic buying” hoarding has emerged as in overseas countries indicates that a mature consumption culture is in place to prepare for disasters, according to analysts. “There is no mass hoarding because of the learning effects people have learned from SARS, swine flu, and MERS in the past,” said Lee Chang-kyun, a senior official at Lotte Mart’s public relations office.
This culture of consumer life is well illustrated in figures. Sales of E-Mart’s major daily necessities increased 45.7 percent year-on-year, 31.6 percent for instant rice and 16 percent for bottled water between Feb. 19 and March 10, when the Korona19 spread began. Lotte Mart also saw 45.4 percent increase in instant noodles, 43.2 percent in instant rice and 9.4 percent in bottled water during the same period.
Nongshim, one of the major brands of instant noodles and bottled water, has a similar elongation rate as that of large discount stores. A Nongshim official said that between Feb. 19 and March 10, factory shipments and production of instant noodles and bottled water increased by 30 percent year-on-year, because the number of orders placed by retailers increased.
Daily necessities are selling like hot cakes online. According to an analysis of sales by SSG.com. between Feb. 19 and March 10, overall sales in the food category increased 108.5 year-on-year. This was followed by sales growth of 132.8 for bottled water, 141.2 for vegetables and 98.5 for healthy foods such as red ginseng and vitamins. It also saw a sharp increase in all items, including the convenient food, Meal kits 1347.2, Canned foods 220.8, Ramen 153.3, Instant Rice 124.7 and Rice 106.
The surge in online shopping sales rather than offline businesses is attributable to the strong transmission of the COVID-19, which makes consumers reluctant to go out. Some say that consumers are calmly responding to the COVID-19 incident through online shopping channels. “Consumers seem to prefer shopping on the hyper-face of online malls due to concerns over the spread of the COVID-19 infection,” said Choi Taek-won, head of SSG.com. “We are making all-out efforts to secure daily necessities for delivery.”
On the phenomenon of a lack of supplies, retail workers dismissed concerns over a supply shortage, saying that demand for daily necessities has surged, but it is not beyond the reach of manufacturers or distributors.