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Cigarette sales drop on weaker demand
SEOUL, Jan. 21 (Yonhap) -- Sales of cigarettes in South Korea last year fell from a year earlier due mainly to an economic slowdown and widespread anti-smoking movements, industry data showed Monday.

   According to the data, Ministop Korea, the local operator of the Japan-based convenience chain store, saw its cigarette sales fall 7.6 percent on-year in 2012.

   Korea Seven Co. said cigarette sales at its 7-Eleven convenience stores dropped 4.3 percent on-year in 2012, and GS25 chains, run by local retail conglomerate GS Corp., saw tobacco sales dip 2.2 percent on-year.

   Nearly half of cigarettes are sold through convenience stores in South Korea.

   The sales decline was led by sluggish sales of foreign cigarettes amid a slump in the local economy, according to the data.

   According to Korea Seven, its sales of foreign-brand tobacco products at 7-Eleven stores last year plunged 11.3 percent on-year, while local cigarettes sales rose 2.6 percent. It also said sales of foreign products accounted for 51.4 percent of its total cigarette sales last year, down 4.2 percentage points from the previous year.

   In addition, British American Tobacco Korea Co. (BAT Korea) posted a 17 percent drop in its 2012 sales in South Korea, and Philip Morris Korea Inc. (PM Korea) saw its Korean sales slide 11.2 percent last year.

   Market insiders attributed the sales drop to a recent price hike in foreign brands. BAT Korea raised the price of its best-selling Dunhill by nearly 8 percent in 2011 and PM Korea joined the move last year.

   They also said a strict smoking ban in public areas and anti-smoking movements at workplaces have affected cigarette sales.

   "A growing number of consumers tend to quit smoking or buy cheaper cigarettes due to the economic slump and the so-called well-being trend," said an industry official. "The tendency will likely continue in the new year."