Japan - convenience store sales fell in June 2009..

July 22, 2009 - Japan’s convenience-store (c-store) sales in June fell for the first time in 14 months, as customers spent less on cigarettes and lunchbox meals.

Sales at stores open more than a year dropped 2.3 percent to 605.9 billion yen ($6.44 billion), the Japan Franchise Association said in a statement today. Department store sales fell 8.8 percent in June, capping the worst half-year performance, the Japan Department Stores Association said in a separate release today.

Consumers in Japan, the world’s second-largest economy, have cut back on spending as unemployment rose to a five-year high and wages fell for the 12th straight month in May. Sales at convenience stores last year were also boosted with the introduction of an age verification card for vending-machine purchases of cigarettes, which increased customer traffic at chains including Seven & I Holdings Co.’s 7-Eleven and Lawson Inc.’s outlets.

“The initial spike in cigarette sales following the introduction of electronic age-verification cigarette machines is over, particularly in western Japan,” said Miki Ichikawa, a spokeswoman at the convenience store association.

Sales per customer at the convenience stores declined 4.8 percent, the largest in seven months, the statement said. Weak sales of prepared meals contributed to the drop.

Reference: Japan’s Convenience Store Sales Fall on Cigarettes (Update1) by Go Onomitsu and Naoko Fujimura, Bloomberg.com, 7/22/2009.

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