Source: Yomiuri Shimbun – 頼みは外国人…アキバに大型免税専門店が林立 (11/19/2010)
Softmap, a computer dealer owned by Bic Camera, opened a large-scale duty-free store in Akihabara, Tokyo on the 19th.
Electronics dealers that are losing market share to suburban competitors are aiming to revive their fortunes by attracting foreign tourists.
Softmap has remodeled its seven-story store to make the first four floors duty-free. Digital cameras, rice cookers, and the like are made to follow foreign specifications. This is the largest domestic store yet to follow the lead of Chinese-owned LaOX. Inside the store hangs a poster reading “Huan Ying Guang Lin” (“Welcome” in Mandarin), and the dozens of staff can speak English, Chinese, and Korean.
“Made in Japan” products are popular among Chinese tourists, so much so that some have bought ceramic knives by the hundreds here.
Since 2000, slumping sales have forced several stores in the district out of business.
Over two million foreign tourists visit “The Holy Land of Anime and Electronics” each year. Its main street alone now has around 20 duty-free stores. About 40% of the Chinese who visit Japan stop by Akihabara.
Foreigners who stay in the country less than six months do not have to pay the 5% national sales tax. (more…)