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Japan Retailers See Mixed June Sales

Stores saw diverse outcomes as consumers continued to digest higher price tags after April's sales tax hike.

TOKYO — Japanese retailers posted mixed comps for June as consumers continued to digest higher price tags after April’s sales-tax hike.

This story first appeared in the July 3, 2014 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Fast Retailing Co. Ltd. said Wednesday that same-store sales at its Uniqlo stores in Japan rose 2.6 percent, thanks to brisk demand for summer items including a line of stay-cool innerwear called Airism.

Meanwhile, sales at Isetan Mitsukoshi Holdings Ltd.’s nine main stores in Japan were down 4.6 percent in June on the year. Sales declined at every store except the Mitsukoshi branch in Tokyo’s Ginza district, which saw a sales increase of 1.4 percent.

Takashimaya Co. Ltd. said sales at its 18 stores across Japan fell 4.9 percent year-over-year in June. The company attributed the drop to the consumption tax increase, as well as the fact that this June had one fewer Saturday than the same month last year.

H2O Retailing Corp. reported a 4.3 percent drop in June sales at its Hankyu and Hanshin department stores in Japan.

J. Front Retailing Co. Ltd. said sales at its 18 Daimaru and Matsuzakaya department stores in Japan fell 4.8 percent on the year in June. The company said it is seeing a steady rebound in sales across all of its product categories, including home goods and jewelry, and that its sales were further helped by a clearance sale that started in late June.

Japan’s sales tax increased 3 percentage points to 8 percent in April. Several retailers posted substantial sales gains in March as consumers rushed to make large purchases before the tax hike came into effect. As expected, April sales figures took a hit immediately after the tax increase. May and June saw a mixed performance from retailers here.

Last week, Bernstein Research issued research predicting that Japanese consumers’ post-tax retreat from cash registers will be a short-lived phenomenon.

“Japan should continue to grow, albeit at a more [normalized] rate over the next few years,” wrote Bernstein’s analyst team led by Mario Ortelli. “We expect the market to return to growth at [a compound annual growth rate of 2 to 4 percent over the 2013 to 2018 period] driven by a cheaper yen, which will help to attract more tourist traffic and keep a higher share of the domestic consumption of luxury goods.”