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Thursday, 29th March 2012
In Business In Japan,

Boost for retail sales paints positive picture for Japan economy

Retail sales in Japan climbed 3.5 per cent in February, providing optimism that the country's economic recovery is well and truly underway following last year's devastating tsunami and earthquake.

The figure, which represents the value of sales compared to February 2011, marked the biggest increase since August 2010, Bloomberg reported.

However, a survey of economists by the business news provider suggests that the authorities figures may be over-inflated, with a median estimate of 1.4 per cent growth uncovered by its study.

Regardless of this, such a positive upturn has helped fill Japanese business leaders with optimism, with the Trade Ministry's figures released in Tokyo yesterday (March 28th) indicating that consumer confidence is returning to the country's economy.

"Today's report adds to evidence that Japan's economy will return to growth this quarter," Tokyo-based BNP Paribas economist Azusa Kato told the news provider.

"Consumer spending will likely hold steady, supported by reconstruction demand and the government's subsidy programme."

Ms Kato added that the February increase in retail sales was improved because this year was a leap year, meaning there was one additional shopping day compared to 2011, but the economist still expects retail sales to maintain their strength.

The sale of automobiles has helped provide a big boost to consumer spending levels, with vehicle sales up 21.4 per cent.

Japanese carmaker Tokyo Motor Corp, the world's biggest automobile manufacturer, has predicted that sales in its domestic market will climb 30 per cent in 2012 from the 2.32 million vehicles it sold in 2011.

Demand for its new Prius car and its range of other hybrid vehicles is forecast to rise amid new subsidy incentives for eco-friendly vehicles launched by the government.

Fast Retailing Co, which owns the Japanese Uniqlo fashion retail brand, announced earlier this month that sales had risen 2.3 per cent between September and February following strong demand for its winter lines.

Uniqlo has just opened its largest store ever in Japan, with the flagship store in Tokyo's Ginza fashion district spread over 13 floors.

Written by Susan Ballion