Wholesale and retail sales fell 1.5 percent in October on a year-on-year basis, marking a 21st consecutive month of decline, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said Wednesday.

The margin of decline, however, shrank from September’s 2.9 percent, the ministry said.

Combined sales at wholesalers and retailers came to 47.06 trillion yen. Sales by retailers fell 2.8 percent to 10.57 trillion yen, marking the 19th straight month of decline, while those by wholesalers dropped 1.1 percent to 36.49 trillion yen, METI said in a preliminary report.

“The trend is unchanged that commercial sales, including retail sales, are weakening, while (positive) moves are seen in some areas,” a METI official said.

Auto dealers and fuel retailers both saw sales rise 2.3 percent in the latest reporting month, due to brisk sales of small cars and a rapid temperature fall in late October that boosted demand for kerosene.

Clothing sales fell 6.8 percent, while those of machinery and equipment fell 7.5 percent as a relatively warm period until late October deterred demand for autumn and winter clothing and heaters, the official said.

Sluggish seasonal sales of clothing also helped to drive down sales at department stores by 3.5 percent and sales at supermarkets by 0.6 percent on a same-store basis.

Supermarket sales grew 1.8 percent on an unadjusted basis, however, marking a third straight monthly gain, with beef sales recovering from the impact of last year’s outbreak of mad cow disease.

Sales at convenience stores slid 1.8 percent on a same-store basis but climbed an unadjusted 2.2 percent,partly due to brisk sales of rice balls and other fast foods, METI said.

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