SEOUL, April 28 (Reuters) - South Korea's department and discount store sales recovered in March in a positive sign for consumption that has been sluggish for months, trade ministry data showed on Friday.
Combined sales at department stores run by Hyundai Department Store, Lotte Shopping and Shinsegae Co rose 2.3 percent by value from a year earlier, the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy said.
Sales also bounced from a 1.3 percent decline seen in February, thanks to stronger demand for household electronics such as air conditioners and vacuum cleaners.
The volume of purchases at department stores in March also gained. They were up 3.9 percent on-year, speeding up from a 2.4 percent rise in February.
At discount stores in March, sales rose 2.5 percent from a year ago, compared with a 19.5 percent drop in February.
Demand for fresh produce and higher prices of eggs due to an outbreak of bird flu had boosted overall sales at discount stores, while sports and outdoor-related product sales dropped sharply due to worsened air pollution nationwide, said the trade ministry.
Sales for sports and outdoor goods have been declining since last July.
Asia's fourth-largest economy grew a stronger-than-expected 0.9 percent in the first quarter, accelerating from a 0.5 percent expansion in the final three months of last year and the fastest pace since last spring, data showed earlier this week.
The retail sales rebound could add to signs that the recovery is becoming more balanced and broad based.
First-quarter growth was fueled not only by exports but a pickup in investment and private consumption, though the service sector remained weak as a diplomatic spat with China saw Chinese tourist numbers fall. (Reporting by Christine Kim; Editing by Kim Coghill)