Convenience store sales in Japan rose by 1.9 percent in March from a year earlier for the first increase in 13 months, lifted by demand for food items as people continued to stay or work at home due to the coronavirus pandemic, an industry body said Tuesday.

Same-store sales of seven major convenience store operators totaled 861.7 billion yen ($7.9 billion), supported by solid demand for prepared food, frozen food, dessert and alcoholic beverages, according to the Japan Franchise Association.

Despite the number of shoppers declining 3.5 percent to 1.3 billion for the 13th consecutive month of fall, the average spending per person rose 5.6 percent to 684.20 yen.

Average spending grew for the 18 straight month as customers continued to buy frozen meals in bulk while alcohol sales increased with more people drinking at home, the association said.

Customer visits fell especially in the Tokyo metropolitan area, where a second state of emergency was issued in January and extended to March 21 beyond the original deadline in early February.

The number of convenience stores including newly opened outlets totaled 55,828, up 0.2 percent from a year earlier, the association said.