Business

Japan to OK sales of duty-free goods in vending machines amid labor crunch

Kyodo

The government is ready to approve a plan to sell duty-free goods in vending machines to address Japan’s labor shortage, especially in areas outside of big cities, government sources said Monday.

Duty-free items such as cosmetics, character goods and watches will be sold in vending machines providing a tourist’s identification can be verified through facial recognition and passport data, the sources said.

With the rising number of foreign visitors to Japan, the government believes resolving the labor shortage will stimulate tourist consumption.

The ruling parties are expected to include the plan in the outline of their fiscal 2020 tax reform proposals. The vending machine service could start by fiscal 2021, by which time the government hopes to complete the digitization of duty-free sales procedures, the sources said.

The vending machines must be connected to the internet and able to automatically send records of each sale to the country’s customs clearance system. They will be installed in airports, train stations and shopping malls where tourists congregate.

At present, duty-free shops need human staff to verify the identification of customers from overseas.

As the number of foreign tourists has increased, the number of duty-free shops across the country has more than quintupled in the last five years to around 52,000, according to the Japan Tourism Agency. The number of employees has not risen at the same rate.