• Kyodo

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Isetan Mitsukoshi Holdings Ltd. launched an app Wednesday that enables customers to buy items sold at one of its premier department stores in Tokyo with the tap of a finger.

Customers can receive product recommendations based on their preferences and budget via the app’s online chat function, allowing them to talk to and be assisted by clerks at the store.

The app can even connect the customer with salespeople by videoconference so they can see the items in the store, according to Isetan Mitsukoshi.

About 15,000 items such as clothing and cosmetics sold at the Isetan Shinjuku department store can now be purchased using the app, but the number is expected to increase to encompass the approximately 1 million products sold at the store.

In a demonstration Wednesday, a store clerk held up a shirt and knit sweater while connected via video to a customer, allowing them to get a close look at the texture and other small details before making a purchase.

“We can offer the same shopping experience online as in the store,” a store official explained.

The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted retailers to rush to set up or expand their online stores as people spend more time at home to reduce the risk of infection in large crowds.

Department store sales in Japan fell for a 13th straight month, with a 1.7% year-on-year drop, in October, according to the Japan Department Stores Association.

A slump in foreign visitors to Japan has also been a blow to department stores that offer tax-free shopping.

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