Japan’s department stores see brisk foreign demand in May

Purchases by foreign visitors at department stores in May jumped 42.8 percent from a year earlier to ¥19.3 billion, led by robust demand for cosmetics, an industry group said Tuesday.

Sales to foreign tourists per capita are also on an upward trend, partly due to advertising efforts by store operators, according to the Japan Department Stores Association.

Chinese shoppers accounted for the highest proportion by country and region of people who visited duty-free counters at the shops, followed by customers from Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea and Thailand.

Overall department store sales, at 229 outlets operated by 80 companies, totaled ¥458.8 billion. On a same-store basis, sales inched down 0.04 percent, the first decline in two months, as the reporting month had one fewer Sunday than in the previous year, the association said.

By region, sales in Osaka grew 5.8 percent from a year before. Sales also rose in Fukuoka, Sapporo, and Yokohama, while falling in other areas such as Tokyo, Nagoya and Kyoto.

Sales at convenience stores rose 1.0 percent in May from a year earlier for the third-straight monthly increase, supported by solid food sales, separate industry data showed.

The same-store sales at eight major convenience store operators totaled ¥808.02 billion, as good weather during the month sparked leisure activities and demand for food, the Japan Franchise Association said.

A total of 1.35 billion customers visited group stores, down 0.4 percent from a year earlier, while spending per customer rose 1.4 percent to ¥600, up for the 26th month. Store operators lowered the prices of some daily products in April, but an association official said “the move has not affected sales so far.”

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