Takashimaya Shinjuku

TOKYO — Retailers in Japan continued to see very low sales levels in May as the country’s state of emergency remained in place for several areas well into the latter half of the month. Department stores in particular took a big hit, with some stores not reopening their doors until early June.

Fast Retailing said same-store sales for its Uniqlo stores in Japan fell by 18.1 percent in May, and that customer numbers were down by 31.3 percent. The average purchase per customer grew by 19.1 percent.

“Same-store sales declined by a considerable 18.1 percent year-on-year in May as approximately 20 percent of our stores were closed temporarily on average across the month and we were unable to conduct our regular sales promotions for Japan’s annual Golden Week holiday and Uniqlo anniversaries,” Fast Retailing said in a statement. “However, sales of summer ranges proved strong and our stores that were open for business experienced many days when sales exceeded the previous year’s levels. In addition, e-commerce sales continued strong in May, rising considerably year-on-year.”

At its peak in May, 311 Uniqlo stores in Japan were temporarily closed due to the virus outbreak, and 354 stores operated with reduced hours. By the end of May following the lifting of the state of emergency, only 46 stores remained closed.

After three permanent closures and one opening in May, Fast Retailing counted a total of 767 Uniqlo stores across Japan at the end of the month.

Isetan Mitsukoshi Holdings said same-store sales among its five department stores in the Tokyo metropolitan area plummeted by 90.2 percent last month compared with May 2019. The biggest decline for an individual store came from the Mitsukoshi store in Tokyo’s Ginza neighborhood, where sales were down by 95.4 percent year-on-year.

“Following the government’s declaration of a state of emergency on April 8, some stores were closed, except for their food halls. But following the lifting of the measure in various regions, stores began to resume operations from May 16,” Isetan Mitsukoshi said. The retailer added that after reopening its e-commerce site from May 7, sales via that platform were 1.4 times their levels in May 2019.

Sales from Takashimaya’s 16 department stores in Japan fell by 63.1 percent in May, compared with the same month last year. Every single store saw sales fall double digits, with the smallest drop being 38 percent. All of the retailer’s stores that had been temporarily closed were reopened by May 27, but that wasn’t enough time for sales to turn around. The company also said in a release that tax-free sales to shoppers from outside of Japan had plummeted by 98.7 percent year-on-year last month.

H2O Retailing, which operates the Hankyu and Hanshin chains of department stores, said May same-store sales contracted by 69.5 percent on the year. It marked the eighth straight month of decline in comparable sales for the retailer, although the drop was less steep than in April, which may show signs of hope for the months to come.

J. Front Retailing said sales from its 16 Daimaru and Matsuzakaya department stores in Japan were down by 73.2 percent last month compared with May 2019. Sales at the Daimaru Tokyo store slipped by 87.4 percent, the largest drop from any of the retailer’s individual stores.

“Until the middle of the month, almost all stores were either temporarily closed or only had their food halls operating, but as the state of emergency was gradually lifted stores were reopened little by little, while also taking measures to ensure the maximum safety and piece of mind of both staff and customers,” J. Front said. “By the 27th, all stores had completely reopened.”