Japan March retail sales jump at fastest pace since 1997

Customers shopping at the Ito Yokado supermarket in Tokyo.
Yoshikazu Tsuno | AFP | Getty Images

Japan's retail sales jumped 11 percent in March on-year, their fastest pace since 1997 as consumers went on a shopping spree ahead of an April sales tax hike, data on Monday showed.

The rise in retail sales was in line with analyst forecasts in a Reuters poll and was the fastest increase since March 1997 – just before the previous time Japan's sales tax was raised.

The consumption tax rose to 8 percent from 5 percent at the start of this month, with shoppers front-loading their spending ahead of the increase.

The move is aimed at alleviating Japan's debt burden but has proved controversial amid concerns that consumer spending will suffer, hurting Japan's economic recovery.

Analysts expect the Bank of Japan to step in with further monetary stimulus to offset any negative impact from the sales-tax hike.

Read More Week ahead for Asia: BOJ decision, China PMI

The central bank meets this week and is not expected to make any significant changes to monetary policy.