Let’s discuss shopping in Ginza

This week’s featured article


Tight-fisted shoppers, unsteady economic growth and a shrinking population — Japan doesn’t exactly fit the image of a spending powerhouse these days.

But you would never know it in Ginza — Tokyo’s answer to the Champs-Elysees or Fifth Avenue — where a new 13-story upscale mall is proving that Japan is still a whale in the luxury business.

The country logs some $22.7 billion in annual spending on top-end goods made by brands including Chanel, Dior and Prada, ranking it as the world’s No. 2 luxury market behind the United States.

“You shouldn’t forget that a big portion of the luxury clientele is here in Japan,” Sidney Toledano, chairman and CEO of Christian Dior Couture, said at the opening of the Ginza Six, 241-store building.

Dior is counting on Japan’s luxury market to rise this year, while rival Chanel is also expecting an upbeat 2017, after global sales of personal luxury goods barely grew last year.

Few brands predicted that deep-pocketed Chinese shoppers visiting Japan would support its luxury market — tourists account for about one-third of top-end spending.

Japan is hoping to land 40 million visitors in 2020, the year that Tokyo hosts the Olympics. Last year, some 6 million Chinese visited, compared with 2.4 million in 2014.

“Historically, (Japan has) been a very insular luxury market where 90 to 95 percent of the spending was by locals,” said Joelle de Montgolfier, Paris-based director of consumer and luxury product research at consultancy Bain & Company.

But now some 30 percent of sales are generated by foreign visitors owing to tourism, she added.

A stronger yen dented visitors’ purchasing power last year, with luxury sales down one percent, after a 9 percent rise in 2015.

Dior’s Toledano said it is an opportunity to refocus on Japanese clientele.

“We don’t ignore tourists, of course, but we’re not a duty-free shop,” he added.

In a bid to keep them away from the nouveau riche crowd some Chanel shops in Tokyo have a separate cosmetics and perfume section reserved for top Japanese customers.

But warning signs lurk behind smiling clerks and glitzy interiors at the new property on one of the world’s priciest shopping streets.

Japan has struggled to reverse a decades-long economic slump while a falling population continues to shrink its labor force — and the pool of future luxury consumers.

First published in The Japan Times on April 29.

Warm up

One-minute chat about shopping.


Collect words related to luxury, e.g., brands, diamonds, rich.

New words

1) tIght-fisted: unwilling to spend money, e.g., “He was on a budget, so he was very tight-fisted during his trip.”

2) deep-pocketed: rich, e.g., “I met a deep-pocketed investor.”

3) dent: to have a weakening effect, e.g., “His negative comment really dented my motivation.”

Guess the headline

At new G_ _ _ _ shopping destination, fashionable, well-off spenders defy Japan’s tight-f_ _ _ed reputation


1) How is Japan described as a luxury product market?

2) According to the article, how has the luxury goods market in Japan changed over the years?

3) What are some of the strategies used by luxury brands doing business in the Japanese market?

Let’s discuss the article

1) What is your image of Ginza?

2) Is Japan a powerhouse in the luxury business?

3) How will the shopping trend change in Japan?







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