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South Korea Sept department, discount store sales decline

[SEOUL] Sales at South Korea's top department and discount-store chains declined in September for the first time since June as consumers shut their wallets after splurging for the Chuseok holidays in August, government estimates showed on Wednesday.

Combined sales last month at department stores run by Hyundai Department Store, Lotte Shopping and Shinsegae Co fell by 5.5 per cent in September on an annual basis, the finance ministry estimated in a report.

September's fall was the steepest since a 8.2 per cent decline in January 2013 and paled next to the 10.5 per cent sales rise for August, the best performance since late 2011.

Sales at major discount-store chains dropped 10.2 per cent in September from a year ago, the latest estimates showed, in the fastest fall since a 23.1 per cent plunge in February this year.

Although the decline was attributed to seasonal patterns by the preliminary government statement, the data comes just after the ministry expressed concerns about a slow recovery in Asia's fourth-largest economy earlier on Wednesday.

This could translate into more pressure on the central bank to lower rates again on Oct 15 when it reviews its monetary policy. The Bank of Korea already cut rates by 25 basis points in August in a move widely perceived as influenced by the government to coordinate policy. - Reuters