Japan’s Department Stores Clash With Government Over ‘Extravagant Goods’

A customer walks out of Mitsukoshi department store after being closed earlier than usual in Tokyo’s upscale Ginza district on April 7, 2020. Getty Images

Beginning June 1, Japanese department stores will be able to reopen on weekdays. But vague government guidelines concerning an exception to store closures has caused confusion, The Mainichi writes.

Japan’s national state of emergency, which was last week extended to June 20, has dealt a harsh blow to the country’s already-struggling department stores, which closed in late April, save for storefronts selling “daily necessities.” But businesses like Takashimaya have slowly widened their interpretation of that term; The Mainichi reports that the retailer reopened sections dedicated to items like handbags and shoes on May 6, and womenswear and menswear on May 12, paving the way for other chains to do the same.

On May 12, Tokyo authorities penned a letter to the Japan Department Stores Association, of which Takashimaya president Yoshio Murata is chairman, stating that “so-called extravagant goods, such as luxury clothing, do not fall under the category of daily necessities, and this has been clearly indicated by the national government.” Four days later, the metropolitan government defined “extravagant goods” as including items such as “foreign luxury brand goods.”

While some department stores have ceased sales of luxury items, Takashimaya is staying the course. “Our customers decide what is an extravagant item,” a spokesperson told The Mainichi.

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