Japan was already in recession before the coronavirus crisis, with GDP down by an annualized 7.1 percent in the last quarter of 2019, and by 2.2 percent from January to March 2020. The country stayed under a state of emergency between April 6 and May 25, however with lighter restrictions that in most European countries as store closures were decided on a voluntary basis by business owners.
Official figures for April showed a decline of 13.7 percent in overall retail sales as compared to April last year, less than in most European countries, but department stores’ revenues went down by 71.5 percent. Supermarkets’ sales grew by 3.6 percent and the “nonstore retailers“ category, which includes pure e-commerce players, door-to-door and catalog sales businesses, was down by 5.6 percent.
While food and daily necessities sales slightly increased, the fashion apparel & accessories category went down by 53.6 year-on-year percent overall. It is the seventh consecutive monthly decrease for this category in Japan.
Department stores like Isetan or Takashimaya were most severely hit as they largely complied to the shutdown recommendations of the Japanese government during the state of emergency, contrary to some small and medium independent stores. They had also already suffered double-digit decreases in revenues in February and March, after the influx of Chinese tourists came to a sudden halt. The April drop also follows six consecutive months of downward figures for department stores.
Sales of fashion accessories, which are mostly footwear and handbags, fell by 35.4 percent year on year in March and 74.4 percent in April year-on-year in department stores and supermarkets. Looking at department stores only, the same negative data were measured at 37.7 percent and 82.2 percent respectively. In 2019, sales of fashion accessories in department stores and supermarkets reached 1,029,424 million yen (€8,403.0m-$9,494.8m), already down by 2.6 percent as compared to 2018. Department stores sales in the category went down by 2 percent to ¥ 829,741 million (€6,775.2m-$7,651.0m) in the same period.