Business

High-end Tokyo stores cash in on China's weeklong holiday

by Shusuke Murai

Staff Writer

High-end stores in Tokyo are vying for Chinese visitors at the outset of a weeklong vacation marking China’s national day.

Demand for goods remains strong among tourists from China despite instability on the nation’s stock markets.

Matsuya Ginza, a prominent department store and an emblem of Tokyo’s Ginza shopping district, on Wednesday opened its first-ever section targeting foreign shoppers.

Set in a separate building, it is intended to showcase cosmetics, particularly those popular among Chinese buyers. Customers are served by multilingual assistants, including Chinese- and English-speakers.

“Chinese people constitute about 80 percent of our duty-free sales,” Matsuya Ginza’s sales promotion section chief Nobuhiro Hattori said, noting that customers from China tend to purchase products in large quantities so as to distribute them to relatives and friends in their homeland as gifts.

Despite recent signs of an economic slowdown in China, Hattori said there remains an insatiable appetite for shopping among Chinese during their national holidays. In fact the demand has strengthened since last year, he said.

Matsuya Ginza targets ¥410 million sales from the new international section, along with online shopping introduced simultaneously, by the end of September 2016.

“We hope our customers find it helpful,” said Hattori, adding that the section aims to bring together in one place items popular among Chinese buyers, thereby alleviating congestion for customers in other sections of the store.

Another Tokyo department store, Shinjuku’s Takashimaya, opened a similar special section on Sept. 23. It includes a booth selling products featuring Dayan the Cat, a cartoon character created by artist Akiko Ikeda that became popular across Asia after it appeared at the 21st Shanghai TV Festival in June.

On Thursday, customers in Ginza included Wei Jiang, 32, and Le Ji Kan, 31, a couple from Shanghai who took advantage of the holiday to travel to Japan.

They said they are having “a lot of fun” looking for high-quality products in Japan.

Another pair from Shanghai, Fan Hu Yi, 22, and Zheng Xu, 26, were in Japan together for the first time. They said they were attracted by the duty-free shopping.

The Chinese economy has recently been showing signs of an accelerated slowdown, and volatility on its stock markets has become a concern. But Mitsumaru Kumagai, chief economist at Daiwa Institute of Research Ltd., believes slumping stocks in China will not dampen the Chinese appetite for Japanese goods.

“The main assets of Chinese are housing, not stocks” and there is no clear statistical correlation between stock prices and the number of Chinese visitors, Kumagai said.

“As housing prices in China are moving toward bottoming out, the number of foreign visitors in Japan will remain strong,” he added.

Kumagai also said many of the 40 million people who represent the wealthy bracket in China have applied to travel abroad but are still waiting to get their applications processed.

“As long as there are many potential visitors who want to come to Japan, I think the inbound consumption (led by Chinese visitors) will remain strong to support the Japanese economy” for at least another year, Kumagai said.

The Chinese national day kicks off an annual weeklong holiday to celebrate former leader Mao Zedong’s proclamation of the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. Domestic events are held, but many people prefer to travel overseas.

Coronavirus banner