Japan Data

Coronavirus Restrictions See Department Store Sales Plummet in March

Economy Lifestyle Health Work Society

The coronavirus pandemic has led to a sharp fall in revenue at department store chains across Japan. Sales have dropped by more than 30%, compared to the previous year, making for the worst results on record since the survey began in 1980.

Japan’s Current Survey of Commerce preliminary report for March 2020 found that department store chain sales amounted to ¥379 billion, a 32.7% decrease compared to March 2019. The report from the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry revealed that apparel, including high-end brands, was particularly hard hit, with sales in women’s, men’s, and children’s clothing all falling by around 40%. Sales of household goods also saw a drop of 30.1% and furniture purchases decreased by 23.4%.

Since the government’s emergency declaration in April, department stores in the Tokyo metropolitan area and elsewhere have been taking measures such as shortening their opening hours and closing on weekends. Financial experts therefore predict that the sales results for April will be much worse. Isetan Mitsukoshi Holdings has already put in a request to its bankers to set up an ¥80 billion loan to help overcome these difficult circumstances.

In mid-May, the emergency declaration was lifted in most of the country, excluding Hokkaidō and prefectures in the Tokyo and Osaka metropolitan areas. Until therapeutic drugs and vaccines are developed to combat COVID-19 though, the public is being urged to follow a new lifestyle with less moving around and large events or meetings. People in the department store sector are cautioning that the usual chūgen summer gift and seibo winter gift sales battles will need to be scaled back.

Experts in the distribution industry point out that online operations will become more important, but department store chains in Japan have been notoriously slow to develop their web presence. Financial experts believe that if this situation continues, it will spur on their decline.

(Translated from Japanese. Banner photo: Nihonbashi Mitsukoshi Main Store, which suspended business operations following the emergency declaration. © Jiji.)

Ginza department store coronavirus COVID-19