As if accommodating Chinese visitors on their usual shopping sprees weren’t enough, major Japanese retailers are now actively working to lure this demographic to their storefronts for the Lunar New Year.
One of China’s biggest holiday periods starts Monday. While hordes of tourists from the world’s most populous nation are expected to descend on Japanese soil, there are some concerns that their spending may decline amid the economic slowdown and weakening home currency.
On the offensive
Daimaru Matsuzakaya Department Stores has teamed up with Shanghai-based Juneyao Airlines to distribute flyers with coupons attached to passengers on flights to Japan until Feb. 15. The coupons, offering 1,000 yen ($8.56) off on purchases of 18,000 yen or more, will be accepted at the department chain’s nine key stores in Osaka, Nagoya and elsewhere.
Bic Camera has also tied up with a Chinese air carrier. The electronics store operator is handing out coupons to Chinese travelers coming to Japan on flights of budget carrier Spring Airlines.
The company is also taking advantage of the WeChat smartphone app, which boasts legions of users in China, to promote products and services popular among Chinese visitors to Japan. It also uses WeChat to send out e-coupons for store discounts.
Isetan Mitsukoshi Holdings has begun using the app to advertise clothing, food and other offerings sold at main stores, including a flagship location in Tokyo’s Shinjuku district.
Major restaurant chain operator Colowide is also tapping the app’s user base. WeChatters at some Colowide group eateries can get discounts by calling up special QR codes on their smartphone screens.
Been here, bought that
October-December consumption by Chinese visitors jumped 120% from a year earlier, a Japan Tourism Agency survey shows. Impressive as it is, the reading pales against the 220% growth of the April-June quarter.
The decline came as the value of the Chinese currency has fallen from around 20 yen to the yuan in June to about 18, eroding the visitors’ purchasing power. That many Chinese tourists to Japan these days have already made the trip before also helps explain the downtrend, since first-time visitors tend to spend more.
At Laox duty-free stores, Chinese tourists who have been to Japan before are purchasing mostly cosmetics and daily goods instead of splurging on such high-end products as rice cookers priced above 100,000 yen.
This explains slowing sales growth at its stores. While the number of foreigners visiting the Laox group’s duty-free stores soared 230% on the year in December, sales rose just 23% — far less than the 300% of six months earlier.
At a Daimaru Matsuzakaya flagship store in Osaka’s Umeda district, Chinese customers purchasing duty-free items have increased 70%, but the store’s average sales per customer have sunk 26%. These visitors are picking up fewer pricey items, such as Rolex watches, and more everyday products. They are buying female undergarments from Wacoal Holdings Corp. unit Wacoal in bulk, for example.
Showrooming without borders
Another likely factor is the proliferation of Chinese websites selling Japanese products. Some travelers reportedly check out the objects of their desire while in Japan, only to purchase them online after returning home.
“Chinese visitors’ spending in Japan will continue to increase, but the pace of growth will slow because more Japanese products can now be purchased in China,” said a consultant at the Daiwa Institute of Research.