Japanese retailers cash in on foreign tourist boom

Global Business

Japan is experiencing a tourism boom due to easier visa rules and a weaker yen. CCTV America’s Mike Firn reports.

Japanese retailers cash in on foreign tourist boom

Japan is experiencing a tourism boom due to easier visa rules and a weaker yen. CCTV America's Mike Firn reports.

It’s been a tough year for Japanese retailers. Higher prices and a three percentage point rise in sales tax have been bad for business. Household spending has also dropped every month since the April tax hike.

However, a flood of tourists may help stem the sliding sales. The country reported that 1.1 million foreigners visited Japan in September, a record for the month, and tourists are spending big at stores like Don Quijote.

“Japanese customers spend around 2,500 yen or $23 per visit. Foreign customers spend around three times as much, and Chinese customers spend an average four times as much,” said Yoshiaki Nakamura, president and chief executive of Japan Inbound Solutions Co. a division of the Don Quijote Group.

Don Quijote is trying to attract more overseas visitors by promoting itself at tourism fairs across Asia and making the shopping experience as friendly as possible.

“We have announcements in English, Chinese, Korean, Thai, Spanish, Portuguese and Russian. At the Tax Free Counter, we have a welcome crew who can speak English, Chinese, Korean and Thai. At times, when there are not enough foreign staff, we have a call center, which opens 24 hours a day and 365 days a year,” Nakamura said.

At Uniqlo‘s flagship store in central Tokyo, more than a quarter of the staff are from overseas. They wear badges showing which foreign languages they speak.

“Tourists from abroad at extremely important at Uniqlo’s Ginza store. Around half of our customers are from overseas and they spend around twice as much as the Japanese customers,” said Chikara Terane, Uniqlo’s Ginza’s store manager.

With the government considering another sales tax hike in the next year, tourist spending may become even more important for Japanese retailers. Don Quijote is now offering tax back for tourists on all its goods, with Uniqulo owner Fast Retailing also considering tax refunds at its stores.