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Power-saving appliances all the rage

Retailers say imminent electricity hike already reflected in sales of gadgets

A shop assistant shows a customer T-shirts made of materials that breathe and absorb moisture to beat the heat at a branch of Hyundai Department Store in Seoul on Thursday. The attire is being promoted as summer office wear. Provided by the company

Electric fans and other energy-saving devices are seeing robust sales as the government stands poised to raise the electricity rate for businesses and households this month to curb usage due to the onset of the sweltering summer months.

Online marketplace Auction said demand for its energy-efficient devices grew 40 percent on-year in May.

Its hottest-selling item in terms of conserving electricity is a 10,000-won ($8.50) timer that can be used with humidifiers and electric fans.

No. 2 is a refrigerator door curtain that prevents cold air from escaping and costs the same amount. It is made of a semitransparent material so homemakers can check their groceries without opening the flap, which the company claims slashes electricity usage by up to 30 percent.

“More consumers are buying energy-saving devices than ever before because they are so affordable and practical now,” said Hong Yun-hui, a spokeswoman with Auction.

A water mist fan, left, and a timer socket that can be fixed to appliances to save electricity use. Provided by Auction

“Our No. 3 top-selling item is a water mist fan that blows cool air through atomized water to drop the ambient temperature, and it only uses one-thirtieth as much electricity as an air-conditioning unit,” she said, adding that the appliance retails for between 60,000 won and 100,000 won.

Business clothes made of fibers that breathe and absorb moisture to beat the heat are also proving popular as the mercury climbed by an average 33 percent in May from 2011, according to Auction.

Outdoor and leisure attire has long been made of cooler material but now retailers are migrating the use of similar fabric technology over to casual suits and T-shirts.

This comes as the government has been entreating managers and white-collar workers to ditch their ties and jackets so as to minimize the use of air conditioners in their offices during the summer. Seoul City and several private companies including KT&G are even allowing their staff to wear shorts to work.

E-Mart, Homeplus and Lotte Mart saw sales of electric fans surge by between 60 percent and 250 percent in May, compared to the same month one year earlier.

By the same token, demand for electricity-gobbling gadgets like air-con units halved over the same period, they said.

Lotte Department Store said it sold all of the 2,200 electric fans it put on display recently for 29,000 won within just three days.

LED lights, which use 20 percent less electricity than regular light bulbs, are also benefiting from the same trend.

Lotte Mart said its sales jumped 217 percent in May, while other lights drew 5 percent less revenue.

The same is true of electronic rice cookers that automatically switch off for a number of hours during the night to save money, the retailer said.

“Sales of cookers that keep rice hot but don’t require electricity for a six-hour period each night rose 53 percent on-year in May, but regular rice cookers dipped 9 percent,” said Lotte Mart spokesman Kim Min-seok.

By Kim Mi-ju [mijukim@joongang.co.kr]

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