Sales at department stores and supermarkets in Japan dropped in May from a year earlier, due partly to poor weather and a decrease in the number of holidays during the reporting month, industry groups said Monday.

Sales at 309 department stores run by 137 companies totaled 691.2 billion yen, down 3.3 percent after adjustment for the number of stores, the Japan Department Stores Association said.

It was the third consecutive monthly decline and the largest since the 4.3 percent fall recorded in November 1999, and came on the back of reduced demand from corporate customers, it said.

Meanwhile, the Japan Chain Stores Association, representing supermarkets, said 7,196 stores run by 115 companies sold an aggregate 1.333 trillion yen, down an adjusted 6 percent for the 18th straight month of decrease.

It attributed the decline to a continued tendency on the part of consumers to economize.

Poor weather helped dampen sales of clothing at department stores — which comprised 42.2 percent of total sales — by 5 percent, the largest drop since November 1999, and at supermarkets — 17.9 percent of the total — by 10.8 percent, the groups said.

They said the fact that there were 11 holidays including weekends in May, two less than last year, also hit sales.

Contributing to the decline at department stores were personal goods, which fell for the first time in six months, down 1.2 percent, and foodstuffs, down 1 percent.

In contrast, sales of electrical appliances, comprising 0.7 percent of the total, increased 4.9 percent for the fourth successive month of growth.

At supermarkets, only services logged an increase in sales, while foodstuffs, which make up 51.7 percent of the total, slid 5.3 percent, and home-related goods, including electrical appliances and sundries, were down 5.4 percent.

Wholesalers see rise

Combined sales by Japanese retailers and wholesalers in May rose 0.1 percent from a year earlier to 42.54 trillion yen for the first gain in three months, the Ministry of International Trade and Industry said Monday in a preliminary report.

Wholesalers’ sales in May grew 1.1 percent to 31.84 trillion yen, up for the first time in three months, while retailers’ sales fell for a record 38th straight month, taking a 2.6 percent tumble to 10.7 trillion yen.

A ministry official said wholesalers’ sales rose because there were two more business days in the reporting month than a year earlier.

The official said the rise is also attributed to hikes in petroleum prices.

The ministry left unchanged its assessment of wholesalers’ and retailers’ sales, saying they are on their way to bottoming out before recovering in a stop-and-start manner.

In the wholesale sector, mineral and metal sales rose 13.4 percent, while construction material sales went up 1.7 percent.

In retail, sales of beverages dropped 10.1 percent, while those of fabrics, clothing and accessories fell 5.5 percent.

Sales at large retailers fell 3 percent to 1.81 trillion yen, with those at department stores posting a 3.6 percent decline to 786.8 billion yen and those at supermarkets a 2.5 percent fall to 1.02 trillion yen.

Sales at convenience stores increased 3.3 percent to 552.2 billion yen.