Retail Sales Japan

Retail sales grew by 2.1% year on year in March 2017, highest growth rate in 22 months.

Published monthly by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. Updated till the month of March 2017 (published on May 16th, 2017).

Recent data trend:


According to METI, retail sales rose by 2.1% year on year(YoY) in March 2017. While the growth rate is the highest since May 2015, details show that the growth was concentrated in fuel sales, up by 15% YoY, and vehicle sales, up by 8.6% YoY. General merchandise sales was down by 3% YoY in March. While the rise in vehicle sales is genuinely encouraging. the double digits rise in fuel sales is likely to be a mere reflection of higher energy prices.  

In a medium-term perspective, retail sales level in Japan has hardly grown since mid-2014. Stable and 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 probably have little reason to believe such stability would last. Wages are not rising and it is within the public knowledge that the long-term sustainability of social security in Japan is 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: May 30th, 2017(Preliminary April data)

                                           June 13th, 2017(Revised April data)

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