Takashimaya Nihonbashi

TOKYO — Local customers returned to shop again in Japan after widespread temporary store closures due to a coronavirus-related state of emergency in April and May, but ongoing travel restrictions meant international shoppers in the country remained sparse. 

Until the outbreak of the novel coronavirus began earlier this year, international arrivals to Japan had been steadily increasing. But since travelers from many countries are now banned from entry, both tourism and retail have taken a huge hit. According to preliminary figures by the Japan National Tourism Organization, only 1,700 international travelers entered Japan in May, the latest month for which data is available. That number represents a decrease of 99.9 percent compared with the same month last year, when more than 2.7 million overseas travelers visited Japan. The entry restrictions for non-Japanese largely remained in place in June.

Fast Retailing said Thursday that June same-store sales from its Uniqlo stores in Japan were up 26.2 percent over the same month last year. Customer numbers increased by 13.9 percent, while the average purchase per customer grew by 10.8 percent.

“Same-store sales increased year-on-year in June thanks to higher demand for summer ranges as the temperature rose above the previous year’s level from the beginning of the month and a strong result generated by our Uniqlo anniversary sale,” Fast Retailing said in a release.

The retailer added that as of the end of June, six stores in Japan remained temporarily closed and 143 stores were operating on reduced opening hours due to the coronavirus outbreak. After three openings and three closures last month, Fast Retailing  counts 767 Uniqlo stores in Japan.

Isetan Mitsukoshi Holdings Ltd., Japan’s largest department store operator, said  same-store sales from its five department stores in the Tokyo metropolitan area declined 22.5 percent year-on-year in June. The Mitsukoshi store in Tokyo’s Ginza district, which until earlier this year was a popular destination for international shoppers, saw its sales fall by 45.3 percent, the largest drop among any of the retailer’s individual stores.

Among Takashimaya’s 15 department stores in Japan, June sales declined by 16.9 percent. Stores in suburban and rural areas fared better than those in city centers. The biggest drop from a single store came from Takashimaya’s Shinjuku store in Tokyo, where sales fell by 29.8 percent.

“While summer sales started gradually in June, the combined effects of consumers’ tendency to refrain from going out, the cancellation of special events inside and outside stores, and a large decrease in tax-free sales resulted in overall sales not meeting last year’s levels,” Takashimaya said in a release.

H2O Retailing Corp. said  June sales from its Hankyu and Hanshin department stores in Japan slipped by 10 percent on the year. While sales to international tourists were down by 90.2 percent compared with the same month last year, the retailer’s e-commerce sales nearly doubled, coming in at 96 percent higher.

J. Front Retailing, which operates the Daimaru and Matsuzakaya chains of department stores in Japan, said sales among those 15 stores were down by 29 percent last month. The Daimaru Tokyo store saw its June sales fall by 49.8 percent compared with the same month last year, while sales from the Daimaru Shinsaibashi store in Osaka were down by 52.1 percent. The company said that while nearly all stores had resumed normal business hours by the 15th of the month, preliminary figures showed that tax-free sales to shoppers from overseas had plummeted by 97.1 percent year-on-year.