Major retailers in Japan pin hopes on New Year sales

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Department store staff prepare lucky bags for the New Year sales in Takasaki, Gunma Prefecture, on Dec. 27.

Major retailers are pinning their hopes on New Year’s shopping with some shops planning to resume sales of fukubukuro lucky bags and in-person events as the number of coronavirus infections has decreased.

However, with an outbreak of the omicron variant, the retailers are likely to cautiously launch their New Year sales.

Takashimaya Co. canceled the sale of lucky bags at its stores on Jan. 2 and 3, 2021, to avoid crowds. The department store operator will resume lucky bag sales at its Nihombashi branch in Chuo Ward, Tokyo, and other stores in the New Year period, partly in response to requests from customers. It will also continue online fukubukuro sales.

“As our daily lives are gradually returning to normal, we want to make up for the slump in sales [in 2021] with the New Year sale,” a person in charge at Takashimaya said.

Even before the pandemic, Isetan Mitsukoshi Holdings Ltd. had focused on its online sales of lucky bags and plans to offer more products online, especially food items. In 2021, online sales accounted for about 80% of lucky bag sales at the department store group, including the Isetan Shinjuku store in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo, and the Mitsukoshi Nihombashi store in Chuo Ward, Tokyo. These stores are also expected to see strong sales in 2022.

According to the Japan Department Stores Association, department store sales nationwide fell sharply in January 2021, largely due to a state of emergency that was issued at the beginning of the year, marking a 29.7% year-on-year drop. In comparison, sales at 41 major stores in Japan increased significantly in the first half of December, up by about 15% from the previous year. Retailers hope to keep the momentum going into the new year.

Major supermarket operator Aeon Retail Co. plans to resume in-person events at some of its stores on New Year’s Day.

The company has prepared about 2.2 million lucky bags, which are filled with such products as daily necessities and food items, up 20% from the previous year. Online pre-orders for lucky bags have also increased. The company received almost twice the number of orders compared to the previous year during its pre-order period through Dec. 16.

Meanwhile, Ito-Yokado Co. has decided again not to hold large-scale events for the New Year in light of the coronavirus situation.