On April 1, as was widely known, Japan raised its sales tax from 5% to 8% - a move many dread could unleash a recession as happened the last time Japan hiked a consumption tax in 1997. A week later the verdict on just how much consumption was frontloaded ahead of the hike is in, as we get the first sales data on the ground. The result is, in short, a disaster: overnight the Nikkei reported that Japanese department store Takashimaya’s revenue in April 1-7 period crashed 25%!
We for one can't wait to see what Japan's Q2 GDP will be now that consumption has literally fallen off a cliff.
The Nikkei reports:
Retailers watched Japanese shoppers rush to stock up on all sorts of consumer goods ahead of the April 1 sales tax rise, and are now bracing for a corresponding dip in demand. But Takashimaya says it carefully assessed the tax hike's likely impact and is moving to slash costs by around 10 billion yen to ensure profit growth for the year through February 2015.
[T]he company is tempering its outlook for the near future. "Insofar as big-ticket products were in high demand before the tax rise, it's possible their sales will fall more than presumed," President Shigeru Kimoto said at a news conference Tuesday.
Indeed, demand has recoiled since the start of this month, with department store sales tumbling 25% on the year during the first week of April.
Takashimaya estimates that the combined impact of the drop-off in demand and the tax increase itself will lower fiscal 2014 operating revenue -- equivalent to sales -- by about 20 billion yen and operating profit by about 5 billion yen. As the steady performance of such segments as the Singapore unit and a subsidiary that operates shopping centers will be insufficient to offset this, operating revenue is expected to decline slightly to 900 billion yen.
Luckily, Takashimaya has a plan to deal with this plunge in revenues:
Takashimaya aims to weather these headwinds with sizeable cost cuts, targeting rents as one area for savings. Since the start of the year, the company has spent nearly 120 billion yen to acquire properties that house a number of its department stores. The move is expected to save just over 3 billion yen in rent annually.
The corporation will cut back on other costs, including personnel expenditures and advertising fees as well, aiming to save about 7.3 billion yen at its department stores and around 2 billion yen for its group companies.
In other words, the company is about to unleash a "rationalization" campaign, better known as wholesale firings. But, but, what happened to those wage hikes that Abe swore up and down were coming and are so critical for the absent third arrow of Abenomics to finally emerge. Or maybe instead of wages surging, they meant unemployment? Happens - it was lost in translation.
Finally, according to Nikkei, other retailers were also impacted with Parco April 1-7 same-store sales dropped 7%, Daiei sales fell 8-9%, FamilyMart -5%.
That's ok - they too have "cost-cutting" programs in place.
As for what happens to the Japanese economy, and stock market, next, here is a reminder from our article from last week: "What Happened The Last Time Japan Raised Its Consumption Tax?"