By  on August 19, 2008

TOKYO — It’s shaping up to be a tough summer for retail in Japan.

Department store sales in July shed 2.5 percent to 706.2 billion yen, or $6.61 billion, declining for the fifth consecutive month this year, the Japan Department Stores Association said Monday. The figures were adjusted for the change in the number of stores over the past year.

Clothing, the largest component of sales at the nation’s 280 stores, decreased 0.9 percent to 257.8 billion yen, or $2.4 billion, for the month. Sales of women’s apparel dropped 0.9 percent, although sales of children’s clothing rose 3.4 percent. Increasing prices of raw materials and foods and an unclear economic situation are biting into consumers’ spending power, the association said.

Still, the figures do mark an improvement from June, when sales fell 7.6 percent.

Department store sales in the Tokyo area in July fell 0.9 percent to 174.8 billion yen, or $1.63 billion, compared with a year ago. Sales of apparel dropped 0.9 percent to 62.5 billion yen, or $585.2 million dollars. Separates such as shirts, blouses and pants sold better than one-piece dresses, the organization said. The hot summer boded well for items that help protect against ultraviolet rays like special cosmetics, parasols, gloves and sunglasses, according to the group.

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