SEOUL, Jan. 28 (Yonhap) — Retail sales in South Korea rose 5.5 percent on-year in 2020 due to strong gains from the online segment in sync with the social distancing policy amid the unprecedented virus pandemic.

The combined sales of local online shops shot up 18.4 percent in 2020 from the previous year, while those of offline stores fell 3.6 percent, according to the data compiled by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.

Among offline stores, convenience stores were the sole winners, with their sales advancing 2.4 percent on-year, as more people purchased daily necessities near their homes.

In contrast, sales from department stores and supermarkets dropped 9.9 percent and 3 percent over the period, respectively, due largely to weaker demand for clothes and sports equipment amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Online stores, on the other hand, enjoyed robust sales, especially for foodstuffs, which jumped 51.5 percent on-year in 2020.

In December, the country’s overall retail sales moved up 9 percent from the previous year on the back of online shops, whose revenue shot up 27.2 percent.

Over the period, those of offline stores edged down 4.4. percent.

Sales of convenience stores and supermarkets rose 2.7 percent and 2.1 percent on-year, respectively, on the back of the year-end promotions, but the prolonged pandemic has dealt a harsh blow to department stores, whose revenue crashed 17.9 percent in the month.

Online stores enjoyed robust sales in a wide array of segments, including foodstuffs and home appliances, which shot up 74.4 percent and 34 percent, respectively. Those of books and toys rose 46 percent as people spent more time at home.

A shopper chooses holiday gifts at a supermarket in Seoul on Jan. 25, 2021. (Yonhap)