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Malaise returns to Japan’s retail sales

Following a rebound in September, Japan’s retail sales have softened again.

Despite the 2.3 per cent spike, sales figures for last month eased 0.2 per cent year on year – the first decline in 12 months.

Sales slipped for general merchandise (a 2 per cent drop after a 1.2 per cent lift in September) and F&B (-1.5 vs 0.6 per cent). Weak spots included fabrics, apparel and accessories (0.5 vs 5.3 per cent), and medicines and toiletries (3.2 vs 5.7 per cent).

Retail sales in Japan averaged 4.64 per cent from 1971 until this year, reaching a high of 36.5 per cent in January 1979, and a record low of -14.3 per cent in March 1998.

Department stores had the largest decline, 1.5 per cent, while supermarket sales were flat, losing ground from 1.6 per cent growth in September. Even convenience stores, which usually lead sales, had a mere 0.6 per cent growth last month. It was their worst performance since March 2013.

While some retail chains are blaming October’s storms for the negative performance, observers say private consumption in Japan is still fragile.

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