Department stores beef up Chinese service before Year of the Sheep


Major department stores are beefing up their service for Chinese customers ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday season starting Wednesday, bidding for big-spending tourists to offset the slump in domestic spending.

The Year of the Sheep begins on Thursday, and Chinese visitors are on the rise thanks to a weaker yen and an expansion in the range of items that can be purchased duty-free. Some department stores have been giving sales staff Mandarin lessons or supplying them with tablet computers to aid communication.

The Japan Tourism Agency said the average amount spent per Chinese tourist last year, including accommodation fees and shopping, amounted to ¥231,753, up about 10 percent from the previous year.

The Daimaru Tokyo Store near Tokyo Station has offered lessons in simple Chinese conversation to employees. The store plans to have some of them attend Chinese and English language schools starting in April because it expects larger numbers of foreign customers over the long term.

“If we speak Chinese, it would create a good impression and Chinese customers could visit our store again,” said an official of the store’s parent, Daimaru Matsuzakaya Department Stores Co.

Meanwhile, at the Mitsukoshi Ginza Store in the ritzy Ginza district, 10 tablet devices with tools for communicating in Chinese have been distributed to the women’s and children’s clothing sections.

Visitors can use the devices to select the size and color of products they want, allowing sales staff to understand their preferences.

Mitsukoshi Ginza also offers suit styles aimed at Chinese customers. Those suits will sell for over ¥140,000 each.

The outlet logged ¥5.3 billion in duty-free sales from April to December in 2014, with 70 percent contributed by tourists from China. That sum accounted for about 10 percent of the store’s total sales over that period.

In this year’s Chinese New Year season, Mitsukoshi Ginza expects sales to double from the previous year, an official of the department store said.