Sales at Japanese supermarket chains rose slightly in February, the first increase in four months, perhaps signalling a turnaround in the beleaguered sector.

According to the Japan Chain Stores Association, sales at nationwide supermarket chains rose 1.2% compared to a year earlier, reported Reuters.

Japanese supermarket sales have been hit by weak economic conditions in recent years, but shares in the country’s major retailers rose on the news that the sales slump could be coming to an end.

Even struggling retailers Daiei and Wal-Mart affiliate Seiyu are expected to show earnings recovery in 2004/05.