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Japan Retailers See Mixed May

Stores saw mixed comps in May, signaling a return to normalcy after April's tax hike bit into consumer spending.

TOKYO — Japanese retailers saw mixed sales in May, signaling a return to normalcy after April’s tax hike bit into consumer spending.

Department stores saw mostly lower sales last month but started to see a return to normal trading levels. These retailers posted substantial sales gains in March, as consumers rushed to make large purchases before the tax hike came into effect, biting into April sales. Japan’s sales tax increased three percentage points to 8 percent in April.

 

Isetan Mitsukoshi Holdings, the country’s largest department store operator, said that sales in May at its nine main stores in Japan were down 2.7 percent on the year. But some individual stores, including Ginza Mitsukoshi outperformed for the month, and saw sales growth.

Takashimaya reported a similar story, saying that May sales at its 18 stores in Japan were down 6.6 percent.

“Due to the continuing recoil from last-minute rush buying before the consumption tax increase in April, May sales came in lower than last year,” Takashimaya said. The retailer added that sales of fine jewelry and other big-ticket items, which sold extremely well before the tax rise, saw double-digit decreases in May.

H2O Retailing, which operates the Hankyu and Hanshin chains of department stores, said that its May sales actually grew 1.3 percent over the same month last year. Its Hankyu Umeda flagship store in the western city of Osaka saw monthly sales growth of 4.9 percent.

J. Front Retailing posted a 7.7 percent drop in May sales at its 18 Daimaru and Matsuzakaya department stores in Japan. While the company’s Daimaru Tokyo store was the only one to record a rise in sales last month, it said that its other major stores had only seen single-digit sales drops compared with last May, signaling a steady recovery after the tax increase.

Meanwhile, budget retailer Uniqlo, which seems better, insulated from the effects of the tax hike, saw more business last month.

Fast Retailing said that same-store sales at its Uniqlo doors in Japan increased 4.1 percent in May, compared with the same month last year. While customer numbers fell slightly — by 1.3 percent — the average purchase per customer grew by 5.5 percent.

“Same-store sales rose year on year in May as rising seasonal temperatures buoyed sales of summer garments throughout the month,” Fast Retailing said. The company currently operates 840 Uniqlo stores in Japan.