Japanese retailer Aeon has confirmed that it is to close 40 supermarkets before then end of this fiscal year.

Aeon had been pursuing a dramatic extension of its retail empire, opening up to 10 new shopping centres a year but now says any unprofitable outlets will be closed in Japan but did not specify where.

Vice president Masaaki Toyoshima told reporters that food price hikes had badly affected sales at Aeon's stores while its clothing sector had also seen a decline in sales.

"Altogether we have 125 stores on our review list," Toyoshima said. "Among them 85 will be restructured, while 40 of our mostly unprofitable independent stores will be shut entirely."

The slowdown in consumer spending owing to higher crude oil prices has been particularly marked in Japan, which imports nearly all of its energy needs and much of its food.

An Aeon spokeswoman said, in the light of such problems, Aeon would continue to revamp its operations and review its store management policy.