Department store sales in Japan plunged 32.7 percent in March from a year earlier as customers stayed home and tourists stayed away to avoid the coronavirus epidemic, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said Thursday.

It was the largest drop since the survey began in January 1980.

By contrast, sales at supermarkets grew 2.5 percent, reflecting an uptick in demand for food and drinks to consume while sheltering.

Retail sales as a whole shrank 4.6 percent to ¥12.844 trillion.

METI revised its basic assessment downward because retail sales are declining. It previously said sales remained almost flat.

METI said department store sales for April are expected to fall even further, as stores suspended operations after the government declared a nationwide state of emergency over the epidemic.

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