Retail Sales Japan

Retails sales in Japan flat but stable in February 2017.

Published monthly by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. Updated till the month of February 2017 (published on March 29th, 2017).

Recent data trend:


According to the data published by METI, retail sales rose slightly by 0.2% month on month (MoM) in February 2017 after a seasonal adjustment. On the year on year terms, the growth rate in February may seem weak at 0.1% year on year (YoY), down from 1.0% YoY in January. However, the YoY comparison may be unfair this month as the February last year had one more day in the month due to the leap year effect. Seen in this light, the sharp deceleration of convenience store sales, down to 0.8% YoY in February from 3.3% YoY in January, should look much less worrisome. Overall, retails sales in Japan seems to be having a moderately positive start of the year.

In a medium-term perspective though, retail sales level in Japan has hardly grown since mid-2014. Stable but flat seems an apt phrase to describe the state of retail sales in Japan. Consumers in Japan may no longer be scared about losing their jobs, but they have no reason to believe such stability would last. Wages are not rising and the long-term sustainability of social security in Japan remains very much in doubt. In our view, consumers are unlikely to be the growth leader in Japan as they remain cautious, weighing the balance between the short-term stability in their income environment and the longer-term uncertainty in their economic outlook.

Brief overview of “Retail sales”

“Retail sales” is published as a part of “Current survey of commerce”, a survey published monthly by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. It is a comprehensive survey on retail activities in Japan and it correlates well to the overall private consumption trend in Japan. According to the statistics, retail sales totaled in 137.6 trillion yen in Japan in 2012. By type of retail stores, food and beverage accounts for 32.0% of the total, followed by motor vehicles (12.1%), fuels (9.8%) and general merchandise (9.2%). Comparative figures in the U.S. retail sales in 2012 were 14.5% for food and beverage, 20.3% for motor vehicles, 12.7% for gasoline station and 15.1% for general merchandise. Retail sales in Japan peaked in 1997 at 146.3 trillion yen before it started a sharp decline to 132.3 trillion yen in 2003. It was a period of time when Japan faced the first nationwide financial crisis since WWII. Since 2003, retail sales seem to be on a moderate recovery path with a brief setback in 2010 amid the great global recession.


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YoY% change in retail sales

Sales of chain retail stores by type

Source: METI,  JMA

The Next Release Date:    April 13th, 2017 (Revised February data)

                                      April 28th, 2017 (Preliminary March data)

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