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Japan convenience store sales fall in 2020 for 1st time amid pandemic

People wearing face masks to protect against the spread of the coronavirus enjoy lunch at a park in Tokyo, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Sales at Japanese convenience stores of seven major operators fell in 2020 for the first time on a year-on-year basis due to fewer customers in office and tourist areas amid the coronavirus pandemic, an industry body said Wednesday.

    Their same-store sales fell 4.5 percent from 2019 to 10.66 trillion yen ($103 billion), according to the Japan Franchise Association, which began making such data available in 2005.

    Total sales including those at newly opened stores in 2020 fell 4.7 percent to 10.16 trillion yen, logging the first decline in three years, according to the association.

    The number of convenience stores totaled 55,924 at the end of 2020, increasing for the first time in two years, it said.

    After January and February last year, sales at all stores were lower than those of the 10 months a year before due to the pandemic.

    Especially, sales sank more than 10 percent after Japan's first declaration of a state emergency over the virus, under which people were requested to refrain from nonessential outings and restaurant owners were asked to shorten opening hours.

    Some convenience stores in tourist areas saw a pickup in sales after the government began a subsidy campaign aimed at promoting domestic tourism in July. But the year-on-year decline deepened again in tandem with a resurgence in the number of infections across the country.

    Customer visits in 2020 on an all-store basis fell 10.2 percent to 15.92 billion, marking the sharpest fall ever.

    In December alone, all-store sales totaled 937.87 billion yen, down 3.3 percent from a year earlier, with the number of customers falling 9.9 percent to 1.33 billion.

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