Supermarkets and Restaurants to Close or Shorten Hours on New Year Holidays in Japan

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Supermarket Summit announces that a store in Sumida Ward, Tokyo, will be closed on the first three days of the New Year with a poster near the entrance, as seen Tuesday.

There is a growing trend in the retail industry and restaurant chains to close or shorten business hours during the New Year holidays. Even though it may be a little inconvenient for consumers, it will give employees who have been forced to deal with the spread of the novel coronavirus a break. The move is also aimed at improving the way of working and securing human resources.

“We will take the days off to recharge our employees’ energy and to thank their families and partners.”

Summit Inc., which operates supermarkets in the Tokyo metropolitan area, has been putting up posters in its stores announcing its year-end and New Year holidays. In 2020, the stores were closed on New Year’s Day and Jan. 2, but in 2021 they will be closed until Jan. 3. This will be the first time in 33 years, since 1988, that the stores will be closed on the first three days of the year.

As people refrain from going out, supermarkets have been crowded with customers stocking up on foods since March. Employees worked hard not only on stocking and displaying goods, but also on disinfecting shopping baskets. “It was to give the employees who supported the business a break,” an official said.

Life Corp. will close its shops on New Year’s Day and Jan. 2. According to an industrial association of about 1,500 small and medium-sized supermarkets nationwide, 20% of them will be closed on all three days of the New Year, which has rarely happened in previous years.

On the other hand, among convenience stores, most stores will remain open 24 hours a day, although Lawson Inc. plans to close or shorten the opening hours of about 85 stores, mainly in office districts. According to a survey released by Nippon Life Insurance Co. on Wednesday, more than 70% of respondents said they would spend the New Year holidays at home or near home. As “nesting consumption” expands due to the coronavirus pandemic, “many convenience store franchises are expecting an increase in sales because supermarkets are going to be closed,” said a major insider.

FamilyMart Co. is encouraging its member stores whose store managers want to take a day off to use the store manager help system, in which an employee from the head office takes over the store manager’s duties. About 300 stores are expected to use this system.

In the restaurant business, Saizeriya Co, some of whose restaurants were closed on New Year’s Day in 2020, will switch to operating until 8 p.m. in principle. The company expects to see high demand for take-out and home delivery. Skylark Holdings Co., which operates Gusto and Jonathan, will shorten the opening hours of its approximately 2,800 locations nationwide, closing at 6 p.m. on New Year’s Day and 9 p.m. on New Year’s Day.

Many restaurant chains are experiencing a significant drop in business. It is likely that they cannot easily increase their days off.

■ Lucky bags

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Department stores, usually bustling with sales on New Year’s Day, are likely to change. In order to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, the sale of lucky bags and other items will undergo a major review.

Takashimaya Co. has switched to selling lucky bags — a seasonal tradition in which customers purchase sealed bags of assorted products without knowing the precise contents — by advance reservation only. The bags can be picked up at the store in December or after Jan. 4, and they will also be sold online.

Matsuya Co.’s store in Ginza will start selling half of its lucky bags at the end of the year, and the other half will be sold on Jan. 2 and 3 to disperse the crowds.

Sogo & Seibu Co. will open its stores from New Year’s Day as usual, but the first sale will be held for about two weeks from the end of the year to mid-January. It will lengthen the period and stagger the start date for each brand. As for the sale of lucky bags, numbered tickets will be distributed to reduce lines when the store is expected to be crowded.