Cloudiest Tokyo summer in 129 years hurts retail 1

Japan’s unusually long and cool rainy season has dampened demand for apparel, furniture and other goods, with some retailers already reporting steep drops in merchandise sales.

Shimamura Co, a chain of affordable clothing shops, reported that same-store sales through July 20 fell 18 percent from a year earlier.

Many of Shimamura’s customers reach the company’s 1,433 locations in Japan via bicycle, rather than cars, so rainy days tend to have an outsized effect on revenue, a spokeswoman said.

Tokyo has so far this month only seen about 44 hours of daylight, among the least since the Japan Meteorological Agency began keeping records in 1890.

There was one less Sunday this month than a year earlier, and rain and overcast skies also appear to be keeping people at home, especially on weekends.

Given that Japan’s retailers, especially Uniqlo operator Fast Retailing Co, are sensitive to seasonal weather trends, they are likely to report weaker monthly sales this week, Jefferies Group LLC analyst Michael Allen said.

“All apparel retailers are likely to have suffered,” Allen wrote in a report, adding that the average temperature from July 1 to Thursday last week was 22.7°C, compared with 28.3°C a year earlier.

Right On Co, an apparel firm with 495 shops and a Web store, reported a 5.9 percent decline in same-store sales through July 20, pointing to weak demand for summer clothing.

Furniture retailer Nitori Holdings Co posted a 5.6 percent drop in same-store sales through the same period, as fewer people bought bedding and other seasonal products.

Representatives for Nitori and Right On declined to comment.

The meteorological agency has not yet declared an end to this year’s rainy season.

Last year’s season was unusually short — officially ending on June 29 — for the Kanto area, which includes Tokyo.

The chilly weather hurt demand for summer outfits such as women’s short-sleeve shirts and undergarments, Shimamura said.

United Arrows, which has more than a dozen fashion brands, might have sidestepped the weather effect, as one-fifth of their sales are online, a spokeswoman said.

Some customers buy fashion items earlier for autumn regardless of the temperature, she added.

“While customer traffic at physical stores of apparel companies could be affected by the rainy season in July, shoppers likely switched to buy online,” Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Catherine Lim said. “The impact to overall sales for larger companies with an established e-commerce platform, such as Fast Retailing, might be less severe.”