• Kyodo News

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Department store sales slumped 11.3 percent in April from a year earlier on a same-store basis, down for the 14th month in a row, as consumer sentiment remained bearish, an industry group said Monday.

But the rate of decline narrowed by 1.8 percentage points from March in part because fair weather helped attract customers and some designer merchandise sold well. Sales totaled ¥514.42 billion, according to the Japan Department Stores Association.

Among mainstay product categories, sales of clothing slumped 13.5 percent. Sales of pricey items such as artwork, jewelry and precious metals plunged 20.5 percent.

Products that sold well included sunscreen and summer clothing.

The value of purchases per customer declined because retailers offered discounts to boost sales.

The government began handing out cash benefits in April to prop up consumer spending, but few department stores reported on how the economic stimulus measure affected their sales.

The effects of cash handouts should begin to be felt at department stores in major cities from around May because it is taking large cities longer to hand out the cash to residents, the association said.

The survey covered 274 stores run by 87 companies.

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