Takashimaya Shinjuku

TOKYO  Sales among major retailers in Japan fell slightly in January, as cold weather throughout the month helped to move winter items out shop doors, but uncertainty surrounding the stock market led to cautious consumer spending. A slowdown in sales to visitors from outside of Japan also dampened the month’s results.

Fast Retailing said Monday that January same-store sales from its Uniqlo locations in Japan were down 1 percent on the year. Customer numbers fell by 0.9 percent, while the average purchase per customer decreased by just 0.1 percent.

“Same-store sales held steady year-on-year in January, thanks to buoyant sales of winter items,” the company said in a release.

After zero openings and five closures last month, Fast Retailing now operates a total of 783 Uniqlo stores in its home market.

Isetan Mitsukoshi, the country’s largest department store operator, said same-store sales from its seven locations in the Tokyo metropolitan area slipped by 3.8 percent last month. It marked the second consecutive month of declines for the retailer.

For Takashimaya’s 17 department stores across Japan, January sales were down by 2.6 percent year-on-year. While all but three individual stores were unable to meet last year’s levels, only two stores saw double-digit contractions.

“Despite sales of big-ticket items remaining bullish, the psychological effects of an unstable stock market, as well as a decrease in both the number of customers and unit price of tax-free sales, meant that we were unable to reach last year’s numbers,” Takashimaya said in a release.

H2O Retailing, which operates the Hankyu and Hanshin chains of department stores, said sales among those stores decreased by 2.9 percent on the year last month. When not factoring into the sales of the Hanshin Umeda flagship store in Osaka, sales declined by just 1.1 percent. That store is undergoing renovation work, which has led to a temporary decrease in its sales area of approximately 20 percent.

For J. Front Retailing’s 17 Daimaru and Matsuzakaya department stores across Japan, January sales fell by 2.3 percent compared with the same month a year earlier. Only three individual stores enjoyed year-on-year sales growth last month.

“Despite strong movement of big-ticket items including art and jewelry, as well as cosmetics, sales in the second half of the month were about the same as the previous year,” J. Front said in a release. “In the last third of the month, tax-free sales to international visitors to Japan recovered to levels higher than last year, [but] the effects of a less successful clearance sale and a decrease in duty-free sales to foreign customers up until the middle of the month led to an overall decline compared to last year.”

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