SEOUL, April 28 (Yonhap) — Retail sales in South Korea fell in March as people refrained from visiting offline stores amid the new coronavirus pandemic, data showed Tuesday.

The combined sales of 26 major offline and online retailers reached 10.89 trillion won (US$8.87 billion) last month, down 3.3 percent from 11.26 trillion won a year earlier, according to the data compiled by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.

The decrease came as offline stores suffered a 17.6 percent decrease in their sales as South Koreans refrained from visiting crowded places or having face-to-face contact amid the COVID-19 pandemic.’

It marked the steepest on-year decline since the ministry started compiling such data in June 2016.

Sales from department stores especially dipped 40.3 percent over the cited period due to weak demand for fashion items.

Local convenience stores saw their sales fall 2.7 percent as delayed school days hurt demand for snacks and drinks.

In contrast, online retailers enjoyed a 16.9 percent hike in their sales, as more people opted to shop online.

Sales of foodstuffs from online platforms jumped 75.4 percent, with those of other daily items increasing 33.3 percent over the period.

In 2019, retail sales in South Korea moved up 4.8 percent on-year. Revenue at online shopping malls advanced 14.2 percent, while that of offline stores shed 0.9 percent over the period.

In a sign of the containment of the new coronavirus, South Korea reported just 10 new cases Monday, a sharp drop from the Feb. 29 peak of 909.