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Dust spurs sales of plants, apples, gas masks

Mar 28,2018
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1. Masks on sale at a convenience store. 2. A consumer uses liquid that helps cleanse the eye. 3. Sales of plants that help purify the air rise. 4. People are going so far as buying and wearing gas masks. [YONHAP, NEWS1]
A surge of fine dust particles in the air over the weekend prompted a sharp increase in sales of face masks and other products including some vegetables with a cleansing reputation.

GS25 reported that mask sales grew 914.5 percent between Saturday and Monday compared to the previous week. Liquid contact lens cleansers sold 29.1 percent more and mint candy that refresh the throat saw sales increase 26.4 percent. Sales of wet wipes grew 24.8 percent.

GS25 saw an unexpected boost in certain food items. White bread sold 273.6 percent more week-on-week while fresh apples and bananas saw sales boosts of 119.6 percent and 62.5 percent. Water sales rose 27.6 percent, uncooked rice 24.1 percent and eggs 22.7 percent.

“It’s very unusual to see sales in one product rise more than 20 percent in a week-on-week comparison,” said the company. “Our analysis is that people didn’t want to travel far away from their houses on weekends and preferred to shop at nearby convenience stores.”

At Olive Young, the health and beauty store that has the most branches in Korea, Nose Sweepers and Eye Cups saw sales increases of 20 percent and 63 percent week-on-week over the weekend. Nose Sweeper is a liquid made to clean the nose and Eye Cup is a small tool that helps cleanse the eye.

Products that fight fine dust have been on the rise during the past few springs. But mask sales - a significant indicator of consumer anxiety about fine dust - are growing most drastically, even when compared to the previous year.

Over the weekend, fine dust masks sold 511 percent more year on year at CU convenience stores. GS25 and 7-Eleven gave similar figures, with increases of 637.4 percent and 619.7 percent.

For some, a cloth or gauze mask isn’t enough and people wearing gas masks have been spotted on the streets. At e-commerce site 11st, gas mask sales rose 419 percent year on year between Friday and Monday.

“I think consumers are trying gas masks because they give them more assurance that they will block fine particles,” said a company spokesman.

The last four days have seen particularly high levels of fine dust in the air.

Another industry benefitting from the polluted air is electronics. At Lotte Hi-Mart, air purifiers and clothes dryer sales increased 265 percent and 210 percent year on year during the first two weeks of March.

Another household option to fight fine dust is plants, some of which are thought to purify the air. At e-commerce TMON, sales of such plants surged 110 percent year on year last week.


BY SONG KYOUNG-SON [song.kyoungson@joongang.co.kr]