Retail Sales in Japan Spike in April Due to COVID-19 Measures

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TOKYO — Sales among retailers in Japan rose considerably in April due mostly to a very low comparative base with the corresponding period last year, when the country was under its first, and strictest, state of emergency due to COVID-19.

This year, another state of emergency was declared toward the end of April, coinciding with a series of public holidays known as Golden Week, but it only affected certain regions where cases continue to rise rapidly.

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Fast Retailing said April same-store sales from its Uniqlo stores in Japan rose by 84.5 percent on the year. While the average purchase per customer shrank by 15.1 percent, customer numbers more than doubled. The company noted that it included stores that had shortened their operating hours, and ones that had remained closed, in the same-store figures.

Fast Retailing said it opened 13 new Uniqlo stores in Japan last month and permanently closed three. It now counts 772 Uniqlo doors in its home market.

Isetan Mitsukoshi Holdings said that among its five departments stores in the Tokyo metropolitan area, April sales were up by more than seven times compared with last year’s levels. The Mitsubishi Ginza store did particularly well, reaching nearly 10 times its sales from last April.

Among the 10 regional stores that fall under the Isetan Mitsubishi Holdings umbrella, sales were more than two and a half times their total from the same month last year.

Takashimaya said last month’s sales from its 15 department stores in Japan nearly doubled year-on-year, despite a third COVID-19-related state of emergency being implemented in some areas from the end of the month.

“April sales increased over last year’s figures, when all of our stores [in Japan] were temporarily closed due to the effects of the novel coronavirus,” Takashimaya wrote in a release. “This year, after the declaration of another state of emergency, some stores were temporarily closed from April 25, except those sections selling daily necessities.”

H2O Retailing, which operates the Hankyu and Hanshin chains of department stores, said April sales from those stores in Japan were more than triple last year’s numbers. That was despite the retailer having its flagship stores in the southwestern Japanese city of Osaka, where the latest rise in coronavirus cases has been concentrated.

J. Front Retailing said sales from its Daimaru and Matsuzakaya department stores in Japan also tripled last month compared with the same period a year earlier. Its Daimaru Tokyo store and Daimaru Shinsaibashi store in Osaka saw April sales increase by more than seven times last year’s figures.

The current state of emergency in some parts of Japan was initially set to run through May 11, but last weekend it was extended through the end of the month as COVID-19 cases continue to rise and overwhelm hospitals.

Meanwhile, three other prefectures will be added to the state of emergency starting from May 16. While many businesses have flouted the government’s requests to close temporarily or to shorten their operating hours, the majority of major department stores and large shopping centers remain shuttered for the time being.