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September Retail Sales in Japan are Mixed

3 min read

TOKYO—As temperatures began to drop in the second half of September, some retailers in Japan began to see a slight recovery in their sales. However with the pandemic causing people to take continued precautions and with travel restrictions remaining department stores—which previously saw a lot of their sales come from international shoppers—continue to be hit hard.

Fast Retailing said Uniqlo store stores in Japan increased by 10 percent last month versus September 2019. Customer numbers were up by 8.5 percent, and the average purchase grew by 1.4 percent.

“September witnessed double-digit year-on-year growth in same-store sales as continued hot weather through the middle of the month resulted in strong sales of summer ranges, and products designed to fulfill recent stay-at-home needs and Airism masks also sold well,” Fast Retailing said.

After opening three new stores and closing four last month, Fast Retailing currently counts 766 stores in its home market of Japan. However, four stores remained temporarily closed at the end of Spetember and 90 others were operating on shortened business hours due to COVID-19. These stores were still included in the calculations for same-store sales.

Isetan Mitsukoshi Holdings, Japan’s largest department store operator, said that September same-store sales of its five department stores in the Tokyo metropolitan area declined by 35.5 percent on the year. The Mitsukoshi store in the Japanese capital’s Ginza district, which was a popular shopping destination for overseas tourists before the onset of the pandemic, saw its September sales fall by 47.8 percent.

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“At the Isetan Shinjuku flagship and Mitsukoshi Nihonbashi flagship stores, the number of customers entering the stores improved slightly on the August numbers, and due to a drop in temperatures around the second half of the month we saw some movement among autumn clothing and accessories,” Isetan Mitsukoshi said in a release. “As for online sales, product planning of wine and other food products proved to be favorable and the response to various product exhibitions and features was strong, leading to a sales increase of about 1.5 times the levels of the previous year.”

Takashimaya said that sales at its 15 department stores in Japan dropped 36.1 percent in Septemver versus 2019. The retailer’s Osaka store in southwestern Japan saw its sales fall by 44.7 percent, while the store in Tokyo’s Nihonbashi district recorded a monthly sales decrease of 41.7 percent.

“September sales fell far below last year’s levels, due to a high comparative base brought on by rush shopping ahead of a consumption tax increase last year, the continued tendency to refrain from going out, and a drastic decrease in tax-free sales,” Takashimaya said in its release. The company noted that tax-exempt sales to international visitors plummeted by 92.8 percent in September, compared with the same month a year earlier.

H2O Retailing, which operates the Hankyu and Hanshin chains of department stores, reported down by 27 percent in September. At the Hanshin flagship store in Osaka’s Used district, sales dropped by 55.8 percent.

“As the number of new infections from the novel coronavirus started on a declining trend, customers that until then had refrained from going to stores, such as the elderly or families, began returning to the stores in the second half of the month, leading to an increase in customer numbers and an underlying theme of sales recovery,” H2O Retailing said.

J. Front Retailing said that September sales from its 16 Daimaru and Matsuzakaya department stores in Japan declined by 59.4 percent year-on-year. All but one individual store saw double-digit decreases, with the Daimaru store in Osaka’s Shinsaibashi district taking the biggest hit. That store’s sales fell by 45.4 percent last month.

“Sales of luxury brand goods and jewelry have exceeded the levels of the year before last, and remain bullish,” J. Front noted.

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