Five major department store operators on Thursday released unconsolidated earnings reports for the 1999 business year, with four of them posting sales declines due to continuing stagnant personal consumption.

However, the four companies registered gains in pretax profit on cuts in their workforces, advertisement costs and other expenses as well as reductions in interest payments.

For the business year that ended in February, Takashimaya Co. registered sales of 1.0115 trillion yen, down 3.1 percent from the previous year for the second consecutive yearly fall, largely because of a 7 percent drop in clothing sales.

Clothing is the largest sales item for department stores.

Mitsukoshi Ltd. saw its sales decrease for the third year in a row to 675.7 billion yen, down 1.3 percent, due to weak sales of clothing and household articles.

Daimaru Inc. incurred a sales drop of 10.7 percent for the eighth straight yearly contraction, while Matsuzakaya Co. reported a 4.1 percent decline.

Seibu Department Stores Ltd. was the only operator to register a sales gain, of 0.6 percent.

However, the company suffered a 39.3 percent drop in pretax profit as an increase in debts boosted interest payments.

Pretax profit jumped 74.5 percent at Takashimaya and 2.8 times the previous year’s figure at Daimaru.

For the current business year, department stores expect sales to level off, if not rise slightly, from the 1999 business year.