• Kyodo

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Daiei Inc. President Kunio Takagi pledged Thursday to bolster the supermarket chain’s marketing capabilities by bringing in new types of goods and renovating sales outlets.

Speaking at a general shareholders’ meeting, Takagi, who took charge of the retailing group following last year’s resignation of Daiei founder Isao Nakauchi, apologized for the decision to skip the dividend payment for the year that ended Feb. 28.

Daiei incurred huge costs due to its downsizing program and posted unconsolidated net losses of 192.18 billion yen for the last business year, its first loss in six years, against profits of 1.11 billion yen the previous year.

At the two-hour meeting, the shareholders were briefed about a newly devised three-year improvement plan to eliminate 4,000 jobs from the Daiei group workforce by shutting down unprofitable sales outlets.

But the explanations offered did not satisfy everyone.

One shareholder confronted Takagi, saying, “Not many shoppers have shown up in your sales outlets.”

The shareholders’ meeting was the first convened since Nakauchi, who led the Daiei group for four decades, was relegated to the sidelines. Daiei expects its unconsolidated pretax profits to jump 10-fold to 20 billion yen for the current year to February.

Big stores, small gains

April sales at department stores crawled up a meager 0.02 percent from a year earlier — adjusted for the change in the number of stores — snapping a six-month declining streak, the Japan Department Stores Association said Thursday.

Sales came to 684.6 billion yen, recovering levels seen in September, the association said in a report covering 300 outlets run by its 125 members.

The improvement was brought on by warmer weather during the month and department stores being open for more days, as well as renovations and sales events. There was also demand for interior goods from large-lot customers.

The industry group warned, however, that there is “no big change” in the general weak trend.

Supermarkets quieter

Sales at supermarkets dropped 5.5 percent in April from a year earlier to 1.31 trillion yen, down for the 29th straight month, the Japan Chain Stores Association said Thursday.

The year-to-year percentage change is adjusted for a change in the number of stores.

Sales of spring items did well until the middle of the month, thanks to warm weather, but slowed toward the end of the month as the weather cooled.

Food sales, which accounted for 51.8 percent of overall sales, dropped 3.2 percent to 678.50 billion yen. Sales of clothes, 17.1 percent of overall sales, slipped 6.3 percent to 223.56 billion yen.

Sales of medical and cosmetic goods, furniture, electrical appliances and other daily commodities, which made up 21.4 percent, fell 6.9 percent to 280.60 billion yen.

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