SEOUL, June 29 (Yonhap) — Retail sales in South Korea increased 2 percent in May from a year earlier as people purchased more sanitary items and foodstuffs through online platforms in the face of the new coronavirus pandemic, data showed Monday.

The combined sales of 26 major offline and online retailers reached 11.63 trillion won (US$9.65 billion) last month, up from 11.4 trillion won a year earlier, according to the data compiled by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.

The increase was attributable to a rise in sales at online platforms, which enjoyed a 13.5 percent hike in their revenue over the period.

Sales of foodstuffs from online shops increased nearly 39 percent, with those of daily items and furniture also rising 22.7 percent.

Shipments of electronic goods from online shops advanced 20 percent as well, in line with a new rebate scheme on energy-efficient products.

Due to the global virus pandemic, sales of tourism services and packages, however, dipped 19 percent over the period.

Local consumers continued to shun offline stores last month in sync with the country’s social-distancing guidelines and fears of catching the virus.

Thirteen offline store operators saw their sales dip 6.1 percent in May from a year earlier, with convenience stores being sole winners.

Sales from supermarkets and department stores decreased 9.7 percent and 7.4 percent, respectively, over the period as more people avoided crowded places while purchasing daily necessities online.

Convenience stores, on the other hand, saw their sales edge up 0.8 percent on the rising demand for sanitary items.

South Korea has reported more than 12,700 COVID-19 cases, with lingering cluster infections from the Seoul metropolitan area sparking concerns over yet another wave of the major pandemic in the country.

In 2019, retail sales in South Korea rose 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.