Japanese retailers prepare for international shoppers

Japanese retailers are expanding their duty-free offering and hiring multilingual staff in anticipation of a surge in inbound tourists following the complete removal of the country’s border measures on April 29.

As visitors to Japan spent a record 4.81 trillion yen (US$43.6 billion) on shopping in 2019, retailers are preparing for a sharp rebound in sales in the coming months.

Japanese retailers are preparing to welcome more international visitors at their branches across the country

International visitors numbered 4.8 million over January-March 2023, amounting to about 60 per cent of pre-pandemic levels; and 1.82 million arrived in March alone, a record-high since the pandemic, which the Japan National Tourism Organization attributes to the popular cherry blossom season and the return of international cruises at Japanese ports.

Japanese retailers are preparing to welcome more international visitors at their branches across the country.

Drugstore and health and beauty product retailer MatsukiyoCocokata & Co., has boosted the number of its stores offering duty-free shopping by 20 per cent to 1,200 nationwide.

Yamada Holdings, one of the largest consumer electronics and home appliances retail chains in Japan, has increased the ratio of its duty-free locations to 30 per cent, up from 10 per cent pre-pandemic. The company also plans to operate 260 stores from this month, up from 170 pre-pandemic, including at newly-opened sites in rural areas.

Japan’s largest department store group Isetan Mitsukoshi increased the number of staff engaged in its personal shopping section, which caters to wealthy individuals including tourists, by 40 per cent in April.

Matsuya Co., which operates department stores in Tokyo’s Ginza and Asakusa districts, is also eyeing more staff as a result of its preliminary duty-free sales figures for March, which showed recovery to 99 per cent of sales in March 2019, with jewellery and luxury items, in particular, selling well.

Osaka-headquartered department store Daimaru Matsuzakaya, meanwhile, is equipping more employees with handheld translation devices.

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