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Luxury goods regain popularity with Japanese shoppers

Customers browse through coats at Takashimaya’s Nihonbashi store in Chuo Ward, Tokyo.

Publication Date : 14-12-2013


Not only luxury goods such as watches and jewellery, but also relatively expensive goods such as clothing and accessories are apparently selling very well at department stores in Tokyo, aided by the recovering economy.

As winter bonus payments began early this month, year-end sales campaigns have been off to a good start.

Whereas it used to be the wealthy population who boosted consumption, now consumers from a wider range of income groups are willing to spend more.

Pre-holiday sales surge

At department stores in the Tokyo metropolitan area, clothing in higher price ranges is selling very well this month. For such retailers, clothing accounts for 30 per cent to 40 per cent of total sales.

At Takashimaya department store, cashmere-blend wool coats and luxury down coats are selling well, pushing up the average price of a ladies’ coat sold during this period by about 10 per cent on average compared to last year.

The same can be said for fashion accessories which, compared to jewellery costing 200,000 yen (US$1,900) or more, had been seeing stagnant sales until recently.

“Pricier items, such as those made of 18-karat gold or platinum, are becoming our bestsellers,” a Sogo & Seibu department store employee said.

At some of the metropolitan area’s Mitsukoshi-Isetan and Takashimaya department stores, sales figures for last Saturday and Sunday were up by 10 per cent or more from the same period last year.

The department stores see the trend as a result of consumers spending not only on luxury goods but also items in the volume zone, or the mid-price range, which produces the largest amount of sales.

“Consumption will grow even more until before Christmas,” a Mitsukoshi-Isetan department store employee said in anticipation.

Last-minute demand

According to Daimaru Matsuzakaya Department Stores Co., a considerable number of customers are bracing for the consumption tax rise in April by purchasing luxury goods when they get their winter bonus.

In the housing sector, last-minute demand for new homes and renovation grew due to a transitional measure for home buyers who made purchase contracts by the end of September. Under the measure, the consumption tax rate stays at 5 per cent even if the handover of the property is after April, when the tax rate will be raised to 8 per cent.

The measure has also helped boost sales of furniture and home electrical appliances to above the average yearly figures, as people tend to replace such items when they move to a new or renovated home.

In general, replacement demand for home electrical appliances has increased as well.

Among the top sellers at Bic Camera stores are washing machines, air conditioners and refrigerators that cost more than 200,000 yen.

At Sogo & Seibu department stores, high-end imported furniture from such brands as Cassina and Arflex is selling at more than double the rate the previous year.

Even Daiei Inc. supermarkets, which usually do not stock home electronics, set up a special display at selected stores on December 5, where electrical appliances are being sold until Sunday.

Sales through the end of last week exceeded expectations by about 20 per cent.


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