TOKYO—Promotions and clearance sales around the New Year’s period lured Japanese customers into stores last month but some retailers faced a tough comparable base as consumers spent heavily in the first part of last year ahead of April’s sales tax hike.
Retailers posted mixed results for January, a month known for special offers from stores like grab bags filled with random merchandise.
Fast Retailing said Tuesday that same-store sales at its Uniqlo stores in Japan increased by 8.9 percent in January. Customer numbers were up just 0.5 percent, but the average purchase per customer grew by 8.4 percent.
“Same-store sales rose year on year in January, thanks to strong sales at the start of the New Year and consistently favorable sales of core ranges,” the company said.
Isetan Mitsukoshi Holdings said January sales at its nine main department stores in Japan were up 0.4 percent on the year. The majority of individual stores actually saw a decline in sales, but the branch of Mitsukoshi in Tokyo’s Ginza neighborhood bolstered overall numbers with a sales increase of 11.5 percent.
Sales at Takashimaya’s 17 department stores in Japan slipped 1.4 percent year-on-year last month. While some individual stores posted declines of as much as 11 percent, the company’s flagship stores in Tokyo’s Nihonbashi and Shinjuku areas fared better, seeing sales growth of 4.4 and 4.9 percent respectively.
“While we weren’t able to reach the sales levels of a year ago, when consumers were rush buying ahead of the consumption tax increase, our large-format stores in city centers, such as our Osaka store, Nihonbashi store, and Shinjuku store, all exceeded last year’s [January] sales,” Takashimaya said in a release.
A Takashimaya spokesman said that during the retailer’s clearance sale period at the beginning of the year, the sale of full-price products actually rose 3 percent while that of marked-down goods fell 6 percent.
“Ever since the consumption tax hike, consumers have been willing to spend more money on things that they really want or are better quality. So even if customers came to the stores for the sale, they may have found items they liked better that were not on sale, and they purchased those instead,” the spokesman said.
The Takashimaya spokesman also mentioned a heavy snowfall in Kyoto as having affected sales at that store on Jan. 2 and 3, which are normally some of the biggest shopping days of the year in Japan. During those two days, sales at Takashimaya’s Kyoto store fell 9 percent year-on-year, he said.
H2O Retailing said January sales at its Japan’s Hankyu and Hanshin department stores grew 2.7 percent. In particular, the Hankyu flagship store in Osaka saw year-on-year sales growth of 6.7 percent.
J. Front Retailing, which operates the Daimaru and Matsuzakaya department store chains, said January sales at its 18 stores in Japan fell 2.2 percent on the year. The retailer said it saw strong sales of New Year’s lucky grab bags, full-priced men’s and women’s coats, watches, and cosmetics. However, it said sales of clearance-priced women’s clothing was slow, and some categories that performed well last January before the sales tax increase, such as furniture and rugs, fell short this year.