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Major department stores across the country on Saturday started their campaigns for the annual “oseibo” end-of-year gift-giving season, hoping to recover some of the losses incurred during the prolonged economic slump.

Sales at department stores nationwide have marked losses year-on-year for 18 straight months due to a slowdown in consumer spending caused by the sluggish economy, as well as weak demand for summer goods due to the cool weather, business analysts said.

Department store chains, including Seibu Department Stores Ltd. and Mitsukoshi Ltd. in Tokyo, set up special gift centers at each outlet and held promotional rallies vowing to increase sales during the gift-giving period.

In Osaka, stores are aiming to see sales top those of the previous year, following special promotions after the Hanshin Tigers won the Central League baseball pennant.

Stores are offering incentives, such as discounts of between 5 percent and 15 percent, to customers who make reservations for gifts by the end of November.

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