Japanese retailers prepare for spectatorless Olympics


TOKYO – Just two weeks away from the opening ceremony of the Summer Olympics, the host city is preparing to enter its fourth pandemic-related state of emergency. Still reeling from previous restrictions and the ongoing border closures, businesses, including bars, restaurants and department stores, are bracing for yet another blow.

While JapanThe constitution prevents it from instituting strict closures such as those adopted in Europe and the United States earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic, the government demands that department stores, bars and restaurants close at 8 p.m. and do not serve alcohol. Meanwhile, it was announced Thursday that the Olympics will be the first in history to be held without spectators.

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Before the emergence of the novel coronavirus, Japan had a record number of foreign tourists from overseas, with even higher expectations for the Games, initially scheduled for last summer. As a well-known shopping destination, the tourism boom has brought billions of retail sales to foreign buyers. With the country’s borders now closed, retailers such as department stores are getting creative in how they appeal to domestic customers.

“We have good customers and they’re reluctant to go out, so we’ve started online customer service. Not only the sales, but also what’s going on in the store, ”said Miyako Sekimoto, fashion director for Matsuya Ginza, a department store in Tokyo’s poshest neighborhood, which was also the main destination for foreign shoppers before. the pandemic. “We are putting efforts into e-commerce and we have launched a service for delivering cosmetics and food by taxi and by bicycle. For overseas customers, we trade live via WeChat, etc.

Isetan Mitsukoshi, Japan’s largest department store operator, is taking similar action. In November, the company launched a distance shopping app designed to provide customers with an in-store online shopping experience. The app includes a chat function, the ability to consult sales staff by video, and even a payment platform.

“In order for customers to shop on Isetan Mitsukoshi’s site, we also post content that meets customers’ interests,” said a spokesperson for Isetan Mitsukoshi Holdings Ltd. Japanese sweets and content related to special events we host in-store, among others. We have published approximately 125,000 articles.

While overall sales are not expected to return to pre-pandemic levels for some time, measures to boost e-commerce sales appear to be working. For its fiscal year, which ran from April 2019 to March 2020, Isetan Mitsukoshi’s online sales were approximately 20 billion yen. For the following year, they rose to 31.5 billion yen.

Before the COVID-19 outbreak, the postponement of the 2020 Olympics and the states of emergency that followed, department stores in Japan were undoubtedly planning to capitalize on the Games in order to increase their sales. Now things are very different.

“We do not do direct Olympic– campaigns or related events under these circumstances, ”Sekimoto said. “Instead, we will be offering special events related to Japanese culture such as Pokémon during the Olympic weeks. We will also be selling food and drink sets for people watching the Olympics at home. “

The last state of emergency in Tokyo is due to begin on Monday and continue through August 22, two weeks after the closing ceremony of the Olympics and just two days before the start of the Paralympics. Meanwhile, only 28.4 percent of the Japanese population received at least one coronavirus vaccinated and only 16.8% are fully vaccinated, according to data from the Prime Minister’s Office.

As the Japanese government was slow to roll out the vaccine, it decided to allow private companies to purchase doses for the purpose of vaccinating their staff and other related parties. However, after interest in the program was greater than expected and supply began to decline, the government temporarily suspended the program. Still, several large companies, including Fast Retailing, Rakuten, and Mori Building, took advantage of the option while they could.

A family member of a Fast Retailing employee said when he first heard that the company would offer him an immunization appointment, he felt “just grateful and relieved” because the public immunization schedule for his region had not been released at that time. Many municipalities are just starting to open up vaccination to people under 65, and others are still further behind. In most areas, appointments are in high demand and difficult to obtain.

“I think all companies should offer the possibility [to be vaccinated] to their employees, but unfortunately there are not enough vaccines for the vaccinations in the workplace, and they have stopped accepting new requests, ”said the family member. “The government must provide more vaccines. “


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