Feb 25, 2016

    Department stores in Tokyo reduce opening hours


    STARTING in April, Takashimaya and Isetan Mitsukoshi will shorten the opening hours of their main stores to make it easier to attract staff in the midst of a labour shortage.

    It seems likely other department stores will follow suit.

    According to an announcement on Feb 8, Takashimaya will reduce the business hours of its flagship Takashimaya Nihonbashi store in Chuo Ward, Tokyo, from 10am to 8pm, to 10.30am to 7.30pm.

    This is planned to take effect from April until August but is anticipated to continue if it has no effect on sales.

    Business hours will also be reduced on certain floors of the company's other stores from March through August.

    From April, Isetan Mitsukoshi Holdings also plans to introduce uniform business hours of 10.30am to 7.30pm at some stores.

    The reduction in hours will vary by floor, with the greatest cuts amounting to 30 minutes.

    Since online shopping has made it easier to buy clothes and other goods, "customers visiting department stores are looking for more specialised services, such as advice on fashion coordination", said Masafumi Shoda, an analyst with Nomura Securities.

    A senior official of a department store said the operator "intends to improve customer service standards and differentiate itself from competitors such as clothing stores" by reducing business hours and creating a better working environment.

    According to the Health, Labour and Welfare Ministry, the "vacancy rate" was 3 per cent for the wholesale and retail industry category, as of November last year.

    The labour shortage is spreading to other industries too. Sukiya, a restaurant chain run by Zensho Holdings, ceased late-night operations temporarily at 1,254 locations after labour problems related to overwork came to light.

    It had planned to resume late-night service by last autumn. However, in rural areas, it has had trouble finding students able to work late-night shifts, and as of the end of last month, 301 locations still did not offer late- night service.

    Skylark Group, which operates family restaurant chain Gusto, has also been discontinuing late-night operations in many areas since 2013.