The story appears on

Page B3

March 16, 2015

GET this page in PDF

Free for subscribers

View shopping cart

Related News

Home » Business » Benchmark

Chinese ‘explosion of buying’ benefits Japan

Kate Yao, a 24-year-old Chinese student who worked at a cosmetic counter in Odakyu department store in Tokyo’s Shinjuku district for five days during the recent Chinese New Year holiday, said she was hoarse by the time her part-time job ended.

Studied in Tokyo for more than three years, Yao was hired to communicate with the throngs of Chinese tourists who head straight for cosmetic counters to buy upmarket brands at prices cheaper than back home in China. She was selling the Albion brand of skincare products.

“Our counter was crazy with Chinese customers,” Yao told Shanghai Daily. “Some of them just clung to me when they discovered I’m a native Chinese speaker.”

It’s not just cosmetics the Chinese swoop to buy. They also flock to electronics stores, children’s clothing shops and liquor outlets, among other sites. Yao said she was bombarded with all kinds of questions about where to buy other products, like electric cookers, electric toilet seats and baby shoes.

Chinese tourism remains a big business in Japan. Last year, almost 2.5 million Chinese mainlanders visited their island neighbor, a four-fifths increase from a year earlier. They were the third-largest source of visitors after Taiwan and South Korea.

Better still, they don’t stint on spending. The Japan Tourism Agency estimates that Chinese tourists accounted for a quarter of all tourist spending in Japan last year, shelling out about US$2,000 each during a visit.

Chinese tourists purchased more than 60 billion yen (US$500 million) of goods with China’s UnionPay bank cards during the recent Spring Festival holiday, a 250 percent year-on-year increase, according to data compiled by Japan’s Nikkei Newspaper.

Out of professionalism, Yao said she was patient and tried to answer all the tourists’ questions.

“Some customers showed me the printed pages with product information on them; others showed me what they wanted on a WeChat screen,” Yao said. “Though we set purchasing limits to ensure that we don’t run out of stock or encourage people to make profits reselling our products, Chinese customers still buy as much as they can for themselves, for relatives and for friends back home.”

Chinese customers accounted for up to 70 percent of sales during the holiday, and Yao said the cash registers at her cosmetics counter alone rang up nearly 4 million yen a day, doubled sales it normally has. Another cosmetics counter located in the Ginza, a mid-town area favored by Chinese tourists, had sales even more than that, she added.

It’s typical for Japanese companies to hire part-time staff like Yao for the long Chinese holidays. Japan has become a hot destination spot, especially with the yen depreciating against the yuan.

The yen tumbled almost 11 percent against the yuan in the last six months and has lost almost a third of its value since 2012. To sweeten the incentive for Chinese tourists, Japan relaxed multiple entry visa restrictions this year and has extended the scope of duty-free goods since last October.

Japanese media coined the phrase baku-gai, which roughly translates as “an explosion of buying,” to describe the hordes of Chinese visitors shopping in the Ginza during the weeklong Chinese New Year holiday.

Sales at Mitsukoshi’s Ginza store, one of the main outlets in Japan’s biggest department store chain, soared 24 percent in February, the company’s monthly report showed.

“Demand for luxury handbags, accessories and cosmetics tripled sales from last year, largely thanks to Chinese customers during Spring Festival,” the company said.

Bic Camera Group, one Japan’s biggest consumer electronics chains, reported a 20 percent sales jump in February. The most popular products? Brandie watches, electronic cookers, electric toilet seats and beauty equipment, the company said.

Accustomed to life in Tokyo, Yao said she doesn’t engage in baku-gai herself. But she said she does understand why Chinese people are so eager to buy goods made in Japan, due to quality and price perceptions.

Kiddy Lu, who worked as shopping assistant in one of Tokyo’s airports, said she had Chinese customers in duty-free who bought up to three electric cookers in one purchase and bring together with six electric electronic toilet seats before boarding.

“Won’t they be too heavy to carry?” she asked herself at the time.

One plus in Japan’s favor is the prevalent view that similar goods made in China are inferior in quality. That is something domestic manufacturers have to address.

“Our consumers don’t trust domestic products,” Dong Mingzhu, president of Gree Electric Appliance, told at the annual conference in Beijing recently. “We paid the price during this Spring Festival, and we should learn lessons from it.”

According to Ma Yue, the founder of the domestic Xizhilang brand smart-heated toilet seat, China produces up to 2 million of the toilet seats a year. Most are exported to Japan. Only about 300,000 are sold domestically. Japanese brands like Panasonic also put their assembly line in Hangzhou, China.

“Consumers sometimes hold a blind faith in foreign-made products,” Ma told Shanghai Daily. “They believe that export products have better performance and go through stricter quality controls than domestic ones, despite the problem that products bought overseas don’t include after-sales service.”

Xu Dongsheng, secretary-general of the China Household Electric Appliances Association, agreed.

“We need time to break that blind faith,” he said in a recent conference held in Beijing. “Even we produce a quality product at a higher price, people still won’t buy it. Overseas, manufacturers charge more for better goods and that works. Here, we don’t follow that pattern.”


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend