SEOUL, Feb. 14 (Yonhap) — Convenience stores outperformed major department stores for the first time in terms of offline sales last year amid the country’s yearlong social distancing scheme, data showed Sunday.

The combined sales of the top three convenience store chains — GS25, CU and 7-Eleven — took up 31 percent of the total offline sales in local retail industry, up from 29.2 percent a year ago, according to the data from the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.

On the other hand, the combined percentage of big three department stores – Lotte, Hyundai and Shinsegae – shrank to 28.4 percent, down from 30.4 percent the previous year.

In 2016, the convenience stores accounted for only 23 percent of the offline retail sales, compared with department stores’ 33.8 percent.

The rise of convenience stores is largely attributed to the anti-crowd, shop-near-home trend amid the strict social distancing measures against the new coronavirus.

Now convenience stores are selling more diverse categories of products to consumers of all age groups in a larger number of stores.