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Japan Retailers Post Mixed January Sales

A blizzard kept shoppers out of stores for one day but the cold weather prompted sales of winter items.

TOKYO — Japanese retailers saw mixed sales in January, as one fewer weekend day than the previous year and a rare blizzard on a public holiday kept shoppers out of stores, while the unexpectedly cold weather boosted sales of late winter items.
 
Fast Retailing said Monday that same-store sales at its Uniqlo shops in Japan fell 5.5 percent compared with the same period last year.
 
“Same-store sales fell year-on-year in January as the comparative impact of one fewer shopping days on the weekend outweighed the favorable sales of Ultra Light Down, Heattech and other winter garments,” the company said in a release.
 
Fast Retailing currently operates 829 Uniqlo stores in its home market.
 
The country’s largest department store operator also saw its sales slip in January. Isetan Mitsukoshi Holdings said that sales at its nine main Japan stores dropped 3.8 percent. In particular, the company’s flagship Isetan store in Tokyo’s Shinjuku saw sales fall by 7.5 percent, largely due to the fact that part of the store is currently closed for ongoing renovations.
 
Sales at Takashimaya’s 18 stores across Japan fell 2.9 percent in January, despite strong performance by specialty clothing and accessories, jewelry, and other high-priced items.
 
“The effects of the snowfall in the Kanto region [around Tokyo] brought a reduction in the number of customers, which caused sales of foodstuffs and men’s and women’s clothing and accessories to fall below last year’s levels,” the retailer said in a release.
 
J. Front Retailing continued to outshine other Japanese department store operators, posting a 2.6 percent increase in sales at its Daimaru and Matsuzakaya stores. Locations that performed particularly well included the Tokyo, Yokohama and Shinnagata branches of Daimaru, all of which saw at least double-digit sales growth.
 
J. Front attributed the overall sales increase to a successful clearance sale and favorable performance by mystery grab bags, which are popular among Japanese consumers at the start of the year. Other categories that performed well in January included luxury brands, fine art and jewelry.
 
H2O Retailing also had a good month in January, seeing overall sales at its Hankyu and Hanshin department stores grow by 9.8 percent. When calculated on a same-store basis, this number increases to 13.9 percent. Much of the growth can be attributed to a 60.2 percent sales increase at the Hankyu Umeda flagship in Osaka, which underwent large-scale rolling renovations and reopened completely last fall.