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Supermarket sales fall for 3rd year in 2018

This undated file photo shows a supermarket in Tokyo. (Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan's supermarket sales fell 0.2 percent in 2018 for the third consecutive year of declines, data released by an industrial body showed Tuesday, underscoring sluggish consumption despite continued economic growth.

The drop in sales on a same-store basis was driven by weak demand for clothes which offset solid food product sales, the Japan Chain Store Association said.

"Spending is weak as a deflationary mindset is still deeply rooted among consumers," Atsushi Inoue, a senior official of the association, said at a press briefing.

The weak sales come despite the government expectation that the economy will have posted 73 consecutive months of growth in December, matching the longest-ever expansionary phase in the postwar era logged between 2002 and 2008. The recent growth has been led in part by firm exports.

Total sales including those at existing and newly open outlets rose 0.5 percent to 12.99 trillion yen ($118.71 billion) in 2018. But the figure fell below the 13 trillion yen mark for the second year in a row.

Sales of clothes fell 5.3 percent, marking the 27th straight year of declines, hit by a warm winter and intensifying competition with online retailers.

Food products, which account for two-thirds of the overall sales, increased 0.4 percent thanks to higher vegetable prices amid an extremely hot summer.

In December alone, supermarket sales declined 0.7 percent on a same-store basis for the third straight monthly fall.

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