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The combined sales of retailers and wholesalers in 2002 were off 14.2 percent from 1999, coming in at 548.58 trillion yen, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said in a preliminary report released Wednesday.

Sales by wholesalers slipped 16.5 percent to 413.46 trillion yen, marking the third straight decline since 1993, according to the survey, which is conducted every three years.

Retail sales dropped 6.1 percent to 135.13 trillion yen, marking the second consecutive decline.

The number of retail and wholesale outlets in 2002 decreased 8.4 percent to 1.68 million, compared with 1.83 million in 1999.

Retail operations have been in decline since 1982, while those of wholesalers have been dropping since 1993.

The combined number of workers at retailers and wholesalers in 2002 totaled 12.6 million, down 4.5 percent from 1999, according to the report.

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