Retail sales inched up 0.1 percent in May from a year earlier to 10.56 trillion yen after a 0.8 percent fall in April, as bad weather affected sales of summer clothing and food, and vehicle sales were weaker than the previous year, the government said Wednesday.
The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry left unchanged its assessment of retail sales, saying in a preliminary report for May, “Although a modest recovery has been seen, the trend seems to be flat,” a description it has used since last October.
In the reporting month, retail sales of automobiles declined 2.4 percent compared with a year ago, when new-model vehicles sold well. Food sales dropped 1.1 percent, pushed lower by weaker fruit prices. Sales of clothing slipped 2.5 percent.
The declines partially offset a 7.1 percent surge in retail sales of fuels, including gasoline and kerosene, a 1.8 percent rise in drugs and cosmetics, and a 0.4 percent gain in machinery and equipment, including flat-panel televisions and DVDs, according to the report.
Sales at the wholesale level rose 9.1 percent to 34.49 trillion yen, up for the 24th straight month, underpinned by double-digit increases in minerals and metals and machinery, as well as food and beverage sales.
The margin of wholesale growth was the largest since February 1991, when the figure jumped 10.2 percent, a METI official said.
Mineral and metal sales surged 11.0 percent, with oil prices continuing their climb, while those of machinery and equipment, including semiconductors and digital appliances, rose 11.6 percent. Food and beverage sales rose 11.3 percent, backed by higher beer sales spurred by warm weather.
Combined wholesale and retail sales advanced 6.8 percent to 45.06 trillion yen, their 24th straight year-on-year rise. The increase was also the biggest since February 1991, when the figure soared 9.3 percent.
Overall sales by large supermarkets and department stores fell 0.9 percent for the second straight month to 1.70 trillion yen.
Sales at supermarkets edged down 0.4 percent to 1.03 trillion yen after a 0.2 percent increase in April, while those at department stores fell 1.8 percent to 671.6 billion yen, falling for the second month in a row.
Convenience store sales rose 0.2 percent to 613.3 billion yen, after falling 1.8 percent in April, backed by strong cigarette sales ahead of a price rise to take effect in July, the ministry said.
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