SEOUL, Feb 21 (Reuters) - Combined sales at South Korea's top department and discount stores both fell by record rates in January, revised data showed on Thursday, suggesting that growth may remain weak for Asia's fourth-largest economy in the current quarter.
Sales at department stores run by Hyundai Department Store , Lotte Shopping and Shinsegae fell by 8.2 percent from a year earlier, the Ministry of Knowledge Economy said in a statement, revised from a 8.4 percent fall estimated by the finance ministry earlier in February but still the biggest decline going back to 2005.
Sales at the country's top three discount store chains last month also fell by a record 24.6 percent from a year earlier, the ministry said, worse than a 24.3 percent drop initially estimated.
'Discount store and department store sales fell as economic conditions and the Lunar New Year holiday falling in February this year led to weak consumption,' the Ministry of Knowledge Economy said.
The data reaffirmed policymakers' expectations that the economy will remain weak for the time being. The yen's rapid depreciation is starting to undercut local exporters while private consumption remains weak, underscoring challenges for the incoming administration of Park Geun-hye.
Thursday's data showed that the average price of goods purchased at department and discount stores continued to fall, suggesting that heavily-leveraged consumers are cutting back on spending.
(Reporting by Se Young Lee; Editing by Eric Meijer) Keywords: KOREA ECONOMY/RETAIL
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