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Department store sales dropped at a faster pace in September than in August amid the coronavirus pandemic, industry data showed Thursday.

Same-store sales plunged 33.6% in September from a year before, following a 22.0% fall in August, the Japan Department Stores Association said. September’s sales totaled ¥334 billion.

The decline came as people chose to stay at home amid the pandemic and in response to a surge in last-minute demand a year before ahead of the consumption tax hike to 10% from 8% last October.

Clothing sales remained weak. Duty-free sales plunged 91.6% amid the dearth of visitors to Japan.

On the other hand, sales of fresh food items, liquor, household furniture and home appliances were robust thanks to demand from people staying at home.

In the first half of October, sales at 40 outlets surveyed by the association fell by 1.0% from a year before, when demand was weak due to the tax increase.

The number of customers, however, has been gradually rising, following the resumption of food fairs and events at stores.

“We’re seeing signs of a recovery as demand for autumn and winter products is solid due to lower temperatures,” said Yoko Yasuda, an executive director at the association.

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