SEOUL Feb 7 Combined sales at South Korea's top department and discount stores in January simultaneously declined by the sharpest rates on record, preliminary data showed on Thursday, underscoring weak growth conditions for Asia's fourth-largest economy.
Sales at department stores run by Hyundai Department Store , Lotte Shopping and Shinsegae fell by 8.4 percent from a year earlier, the finance ministry estimated in a monthly report, compared with a 0.2 percent decline in December and marking the biggest decline going back to 2005.
Sales at the country's top three discount store chains last month also fell by a record 24.3 percent from a year earlier, according to the estimates, compared with a 5.0 percent decline in December.
The finance ministry said that domestic consumption remains weak, creating uncertainties in the economy. Some of the weakness in department and discount store sales was attributed to the fact that Lunar New Year holidays are in February this year.
(Reporting by Se Young Lee; Editing by Eric Meijer)