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Retail sales plummeted 4.1 percent in April from a year earlier, while wholesale sales fell 2.7 percent, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said Monday.

The wholesale decline came at a slower rate than the previous month thanks to brisk auto exports. In yen terms, wholesale sales fell to 36.25 trillion yen; retail sales came to 10.91 trillion yen.

Combined sales by wholesalers and retailers fell 3 percent to 47.16 trillion yen, METI said in a preliminary report.

Although wholesale sales fell for the 15th consecutive month, the margin of decline shrank from 7.5 percent in March to the smallest since last July’s 1.6 percent dip.

Retail sales fell for the 13th consecutive month, and METI reiterated for the 11th straight month its view that retail sales are in a declining trend.

Among wholesalers, large general traders showed an 8.1 percent growth in exports, thanks to automobiles. Wholesalers specializing in automobiles reported a sales increase of 4.6 percent, METI said.

However, overall wholesale sales remained in negative territory, due chiefly to a 9 percent decline in sales at general machinery wholesalers and a 4.6 slump in sales at electric machinery wholesalers.

Sales by auto retailers fell 4.6 percent as the effects of the winter launch of new small cars and minivehicles waned, and sales by electrical appliance stores declined 4.1 percent, according to METI.

Clothing sales dropped 7.4 percent as a result of the relatively warm winter, which saw spring sales brought forward to March or earlier, affecting April sales.

Sales by large retailers fell 2 percent on a same-store basis, down for the 48th consecutive month. Supermarket sales declined 2.1 percent and department store sales were down 1.9 percent.

Convenience store sales fell 2.2 percent, down for the 21st straight month.

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