Chinese tourists buying cheaper items as yen makes Tokyo more expensive


Chinese tourists are no longer splurging on high-end items but are seeking lower-priced buys instead. The change was apparent during this year’s Chinese Lunar New Year holiday, which ended last week.

The stronger yen may be one reason why. Another, according to Luo Yiwen, president of duty-free shop operator Laox Co., is that those on repeat visits are simply spending less.

During this year’s Lunar New Year shopping season, many Japanese retailers logged stronger sales than a year earlier. Of them, department store operator Takashimaya Co. saw its sales go up 40 percent, while consumer electronics retailer Bic Camera Inc. achieved 30 percent sales growth.

Foreign tourists have surged in number in recent months, and Tokyo’s Akihabara electronics shopping district, for example, was full of Chinese shoppers carrying bags and boxes in both hands during the holiday.

But the bags conceal the reality that they are buying cheaper items.

“Their buying of expensive consumer electronics has run its course to some extent,” Luo said.

According to Bic Camera, high-priced rice cookers used to be strong sellers but now less expensive vacuum cleaners and beauty care appliances are in demand. Moreover, some foreign shoppers of photo equipment are buying only lenses because they already own cameras.

An official of discount retailer Don Quijote Co. said Chinese shoppers who used to buy top-brand items are now opting for daily commodities such as food and cosmetics.

The changing pattern and the stronger yen are making it difficult for retailers to keep big-ticket sales growing at the current pace, said Michitaka Sawada, president of daily goods and cosmetics maker Kao Corp.

“Although the number of tourists to Japan will unlikely decrease in the near future, their expenditures will inevitably go down,” said Takeshi Makita, an economist at Japan Research Institute.