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Japan retailers gain as sales data hints at post-outbreak rebound

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Nitori saw relatively little impact on its revenue during the state of emergency, as it benefited from an increased level of spending as workers spruce up their living environments at home.

Tokyo

SHARES in a range of Japanese retailers gained following a surge in sales at furniture depot Nitori Holdings Co. and casual fashion retailer Shimamura Co, an early indication of pent-up demand from local shoppers as the threat of the novel coronavirus subsided.

Nitori same-store sales jumped 47 per cent in June from the previous year, the most on record in data going back to 2012, while Shimamura saw a 27 per cent increase.

The two companies are early reporters of retail data in Japan, with the figures released Tuesday covering the period from May 21 to June 20.

Japan's novel coronavirus state of emergency was lifted in stages from May 14, before being fully ended on May 25.

Shimamura shares rose as much as 7.3 per cent in Tokyo on Wednesday, while Nitori added as much as 2.5 per cent.

The moves were echoed in other retailers which are set to report monthly data early in July, including United Arrows Ltd, which added 5.3 per cent, and owner of the Muji brand Ryohin Keikaku Co, which climbed as much as 4.7 per cent.

Uniqlo operator Fast Retailing Co advanced 2 per cent.

Revenues at department stores, more dependent on tourist spending, fell 27 per cent compared with the year earlier between June 1 and 17, Kyodo reported, citing the Japan Department Stores Association.

Should that pace hold, it would still represent a recovery from May, when sales dropped 66 per cent nationwide according to data released Tuesday. Sales plunged 73 per cent in April.

Nitori cited continued demand for home office furniture and storage goods, noting that 4.8 percentage points of the increase could be attributed to the fact that the period had one more Saturday compared with 2019.

The Sapporo-based firm had already seen relatively little impact on its revenue during the state of emergency, with sales jumping in March and falling just 4 per cent in April.

Its shares rose about 18 per cent this year versus an 8 per cent loss for the broader Topix.

At Shimamura, by contrast, turnover fell every month in 2020, including a 28 per cent drop in April. Its stock fell 3 per cent year to date.

Japanese consumers have taken to remote work in a way that few had predicted, with Nitori in particular standing to benefit from an increased level of spending as workers spruce up their living environments at home.

A Jiji survey found that 70 per cent want to continue working from home even after the pandemic is contained, while a Cabinet Office poll showed increased levels of interest from 25 per cent of city dwellers in moving to the country.

Shimamura also said it saw continued "stay-home" demand for relaxing interior clothing and summer goods, with June customer numbers up 16 per cent from the year earlier.

On Monday, infant goods retailer Nishimatsuya Chain Co, which had seen gains every month throughout the emergency, reported a 34 per cent jump in sales.

Japan releases overall retail sales data for May on June 29. The print for April showed a 14 per cent drop compared to the previous year, the second-largest decline in a single month since 1989. BLOOMBERG

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