TOKYO, May 22 (Xinhua) -- Japan's department store sales in April fell 72.8 percent on a same-store basis compared to a year earlier, logging the largest monthly decrease since comparable data became available in 1965, the Japan Department Stores Association said Friday.
Sales of 203 stores run by 73 operators stood at 120.8 billion yen (1.1 billion U.S. dollars) in the seventh consecutive monthly drop, the association said.
The sharp decline occurred as government measures to combat the COVID-19 forced many stores to shorten operation time or temporarily shut down, it said.
Interim statistics in May suggest that an even steeper plunge in sales is possible in the month with around 85 percent down in the first 18 days, the industry body said.
However, some recovery is likely in the remaining month after the government lifted the state of emergency for 39 of the nation's 47 prefectures on May 14, according to the association.
In April, duty-free sales plunged 98.5 percent to about 500 million yen (4.65 million dollars) as the number of customers dropped 99.5 percent for the third straight month to 2,400 with cross-border travel restrictions in and outside Japan.
By category, sales of clothing and miscellaneous products such as cosmetics and jewelry decreased 82.7 percent and 78.7 percent, respectively.
The sales of food items declined 53.0 percent, which was comparatively milder than most other products, as many stores remained the operation of their grocery floors.