Nationwide department store sales rose by 0.1% y-o-y in March 2019 to JPY 514.8 billion, the second consecutive monthly increase.
Duty-free sales also rose by 14.9% y-o-y to JPY 33.2 billion, while sales of high-end products such as luxury brands also remained strong. The number of inbound tourists to Japan rose by 5.8% y-o-y to 2.76 million in March, a record monthly high.
The stand-alone store market again witnessed strong demand from luxury brands seeking to open stores in Q1 2019, mainly in the Ginza high street area. Also this quarter, some brands with an existing stand-alone store looked to launch new stores in different formats. Although some owners set rents above the prevailing market level, there were no cases of top-end rents being pushed up in this area. Prime rents were unchanged for the fifteenth consecutive quarter at JPY 400,000 per tsubo per month.
The vacancy rate in the high street area rose by 0.4 points q-o-q to 1.5% in Q1 2019. The increase was mainly due to an increase in secondary vacancy, which has been created by tenants relocating to improve their location, being marketed for lease, as well as building owners who had previously operated stores under their own brand switching to leasing. However, leasing enquiries remained brisk, with landlords quickly securing replacement tenants from several interested candidates.