The nation’s combined wholesale and retail sales fell 0.3 percent in January from a year earlier to 42.73 trillion yen, down for the 24th consecutive month, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said in a preliminary report released Wednesday.

Retail sales fell 2.2 percent to 10.328 trillion yen, while sales by wholesalers rose 0.3 percent to 32.402 trillion yen, posting the first increase in 24 months, METI said.

The improvement in wholesale sales was mainly due to increased oil imports, apparently triggered by power companies’ efforts to boost thermal power generation because many of their nuclear plants have been shut down for checks.

Sales by large retailers — supermarkets and department stores — declined 0.5 percent to 1.917 trillion yen.

Supermarket sales rose 0.8 percent to 1.14 trillion yen while department store sales fell 2.4 percent to 777 billion yen.

Convenience store sales grew 2.5 percent to 553 billion yen.

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