Sales at supermarkets and department stores continued their downward spiral in fiscal 2001 as the prolonged economic slump and worsening joblessness undermined consumer confidence, according to industry data released Wednesday.

According to the Japan Chain Stores Association, supermarket sales fell 4.8 percent from the previous year to 15,467.10 billion yen in fiscal 2001, declining for the sixth year in a row.

The Japan Department Stores Association said sales at department stores edged down 0.3 percent to 8.531 trillion yen, down for the fifth consecutive year.

Both sets of figures were calculated on a same-store basis, adjusting for changes in the number of supermarkets and department stores.

Sales at supermarkets were relatively strong during the spring and summer because temperatures were higher than normal, the chain stores association said.

However, winter sales were sluggish due to unseasonably warm weather, it added.

Food sales, which accounted for 53.7 percent of overall sales, slipped 2 percent due partly to the outbreak of mad cow disease and various food labeling scandals.

Sales of clothing, which accounted for 16.4 percent of total sales, dropped 7.2 percent as prices continued to fall.

Sales of household products, including furniture and electrical appliances, also fell 7.2 percent.

In March alone, supermarket sales were off 0.6 percent from a year earlier to 1.163 trillion yen, taking the trend into its 40th consecutive month, the association said.

Meanwhile, the department stores association said sales of clothing dropped 0.8 percent in fiscal 2001, while sales of food edged down 0.1 percent. Sales of sundry products, however, edged up 0.1 percent.

In March alone, department store sales rose 0.6 percent from a year earlier to 751.7 billion yen, the first rise in four months.

Tertiary activity falls

Amid sluggish personal spending, activity in Japan’s tertiary industry fell 0.4 percent in February, marking the third straight month-on-month decline, the trade ministry said Wednesday in a preliminary report.

The tertiary industry index came to a seasonally adjusted 106 against the 1995 base of 100, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said.

“As consumer spending remains in the doldrums, there is somewhat of a downturn (in activity),” a METI official said.

Retailers saw a 1.1 percent fall due to dull sales of winter clothes amid the unusually warm winter, while activity at restaurants declined 2.9 percent as the mad cow disease scare continued to take a toll, the official said.

Business at wholesalers edged down 0.2 percent, partly due to sluggish sales of personal computers.

In contrast, overseas travel continued to recover from the Sept. 11 attacks, rising 5.5 percent in activity at travel agencies and 2.5 percent at airlines, the official said.

Brokerages posted an increase of 11.2 percent, thanks to higher stock prices, while telecommunications firms saw 5 percent growth.

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