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Sales at supermarkets slipped 2.1 percent in 2002 on a same-store basis from the previous year for the sixth straight yearly fall, the Japan Chain Stores Association said Friday.

Sales at 9,137 outlets run by the association’s 102 member supermarket operators totaled 14.37 trillion yen in 2002.

Sales were sluggish at the outset of the year as demand for winter goods remained weak amid the relatively warm winter, the association said.

They picked up toward midyear, registering in June the first year-on-year rise in 43 months, helped partly by the World Cup soccer finals cohosted by Japan and South Korea. Food sales showed notable growth, it said, attributing the rise to people staying home to watch broadcasts of the games.

But sales tumbled back to below year-before levels again in July and remained there for the rest of the year, it said.

In December, sales at member supermarkets came to 1.47 trillion yen, down 4.2 percent from a year earlier on a same store basis. The fall marked the six straight month of yearly decline.

Relatively low temperatures in December stimulated demand for food for winter dishes, but unfavorable weather on weekends hampered shopper turnout, it said.

Another negative factor was an earlier start of shopping for yearend gifts, partly exhausting demand before December, it said.

Sales of food — the biggest segment, accounting for 53.4 percent of total sales — leveled off compared with a year earlier at 786.1 billion yen.

Service-sector sales, including travel ticket sales, rose 0.3 percent to 10.4 billion yen, but this segment accounted for only 0.7 percent of the total.

Sales of clothing, household and sundry goods all remained below year-earlier levels.

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