A year since its debut, the state-backed “Premium Friday” campaign to boost consumption on the last Friday of each month has only motivated about 11 percent of the workforce to participate, the government says.

The campaign encourages people to leave work early and have fun, with stores offering special discounts on the day. But the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry says only 11.2 percent of workers on average actually took part on the first 12 Premium Fridays.

With the campaign unable to penetrate small businesses or reach beyond big cities, more time may be needed for the campaign to become a nationwide custom.

A public-private promotion committee for the campaign celebrated its first anniversary on Friday by offering free admission to an exhibition at the National Art Center, Tokyo, in Roppongi.

At a commemorative ceremony there, Kunio Ishizuka, vice chairman of Keidanren (the Japan Business Federation), said the influential business lobby intends to promote the campaign more vigorously in the second year.

Businesses are continuing efforts to attract demand as part of the drive.

Restaurant chain Kushikatsu Tanaka Co. offers discounts on Premium Fridays, selling deep-fried foods on skewers for ¥100 per stick.

An official of the company said its campaign has led to higher sales.

Suntory Beer Ltd. has started a campaign that lets people who buy its Premium Malt’s lager to rent a DVD for free on every Friday, not just Premium Friday.

Tourism-related companies have set up websites dedicated to the campaign, but an official at travel agency JTB Corp. said there has been little growth in reservations on Premium Fridays since last autumn.

Department stores are holding related events, too. An official of the Japan Department Stores Association said the nationwide campaign has not spurred consumption as much as the industry expected.

Many Premium Friday events are held in Tokyo, but the situation is different elsewhere.

Ado Yamamoto, chairman of Nagoya Railroad Co., said there isn’t much buzz about the campaign anymore. He said: “It’s like, ‘Are they still doing it?’ “

Toshihiro Nagahama, economist at the Dai-ichi Life Research Institute, said Premium Friday is “a good initiative” because it does not rely on government spending.

“I guess more people will leave work early if it does not have to be the last Friday of the month, when people tend to have a lot of work to do,” he said.

METI chief Hiroshige Seko said at a news conference Friday that the campaign is going smoothly, considering it is only a year old.

He expressed hope it will spread more to small companies and areas outside Tokyo. The government will continue to support the campaign, he said.

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