Convenience store sales rose to a record high in 2023 for the second consecutive year, growing 4.1% on the back of the removal of COVID-19 restrictions, a surge in inbound tourists and an unusually hot summer, an industry body has said.

The same-store sales of seven major convenience store operators rose for the third straight year to ¥11.2 trillion ($76 billion) in 2023, the Japan Franchise Association (JFA) said Monday.

Japan's decision in May to downgrade the legal status of COVID-19 to the same category as seasonal influenza and a resurgence in overseas tourists helped customer visits grow 2.9%, reaching 15.5 billion.

This is the second consecutive year that these figures have increased, although the figures are still short compared with pre-pandemic levels in 2019.

Typical convenience store items, such as onigiri (rice balls), confectioneries and alcoholic beverages led growth in overall sales. Record-breaking heat waves during the summer also led to higher sales of ice cream and cold beverages.

Average spending per customer increased 1.1% to ¥723.5, but the outlook remains uncertain as inflation drags on.

Higher input costs have raised prices of food items in particular, which in part has helped boost sales by value.

"While (inflation) has contributed to sales growth, it has also prompted more cautious spending behavior among consumers," a JFA official said.

In December alone, same-store sales totaled ¥1.01 trillion, a 4.2% increase compared with the same month a year earlier. The number of customers also saw a 2.7% rise to 1.31 billion, as more people traveled during the New Year holidays thanks to the removal of COVID-19 restrictions.