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Japanese Spent Most in U.S. Mainland, Hawaii: 2012 Survey

October 5, 2013 Destination North Asia No Comments Email Email

Japanese travelers dished out about US$697 per person per trip in 2012 while shopping overseas — such as the U.S. Mainland and Hawaii, thanks to the power of the Japanese yen in 2012 — up from the $649 figure in 2010 (no figures for 2011).

In real terms, however, the Japanese spent less in 2012 due to the buying power the Japanese currency afforded travelers compared to 2010: 56,750 yen (2010) vs. 55,620 yen (2012), according to results of the latest joint survey by Japan Tourism Marketing and Tax Free World Association.

Major annual sales in New York City attract many shoppers.Major annual sales in New York City attract many shoppers.

Released in May 2013, the findings revealed that Japanese spent about 90,000 yen on shopping alone in the U.S., of which 28,000 yen were for gifts for friends and family (omiyage) and 62,000 yen for themselves. Hawaii, ranked second, rang up 87,000 yen in shopping per visitor, of which 54,000 yen were for the shoppers themselves and 33,000 yen as gifts for others. France closely followed with 54,000 yen spent for the traveler and 29,000 yen on gifts.

Despite China attracting the largest number of Japanese visitors (3,518,200) in 2012, only 30,000 yen were dished on for shopping (18,000 yen for self and 12,000 yen on gifts). One explanation is the ease with which consumers can head to China, thanks to the numerous daily flights offered from major airports linking Japan to the various Chinese gateways, thus making trips to the country a frequent occurrence, similar to domestic travel. The number of air seats available on China routes in 2012 grew 29.48%, commanding a 23.93% share, compared to Hawaii’s 4.66% share.

Other popular major destinations such as South Korea (54,000 yen average), Hong Kong (51,000 yen) and Taiwan (47,000 yen) each revealed lower spending levels on shopping, suggesting that Japanese travelers spent more shopping at long-haul destinations than at nearby Asian countries per trip.

A recent trend contributing to frequent travel to Asian destinations for the main purpose of shopping is on the rise, thanks to the entry of low-cost carriers in Japan.

Peach Aviation — a Japanese LCC joint venture including All Nippon Airways — has been successfully selling flights on the Kansai (Osaka)-Seoul route with same-day return at 7,400 yen, aimed primarily at housewives who cannot spend overnight in Seoul. The flights are seen as domestic trips for shopping jaunts as they are much cheaper than fares paid within Japan, buoyed by the strength of the Japanese yen against the Korean won.

Spending Total and Style, by Major Destination, 2012

What did Japanese travelers buy overseas? In terms of spending volume, fashion goods — including clothing, bags, accessories, leather goods and lingerie — ranked at the top, averaging $841 per person (67,000 yen), up 1.82% from 2010, followed by expensive jewelry and watches at $731 (58,000 yen), down 2.40%.

In terms of growth from 2010, local high-end quality products climbed 130.97% to $619 (49,300 yen), indicating strong interest among consumers in discovering unique special products available only overseas in local areas.

Electronic and mobile phones jumped 108.27% to $277 per person, thanks in large part to the popularity of Apple’s iPads, iPhones and other products. Among Japanese consumers, in 2010 Apple products were ranked fifth with the Sony brand at the top. In 2012, Apple moved to the top with 37.2 points, succeeding Sony, which garnered 29.2% for second place, according to the survey.

Clothing items were popular among Japanese visitors.Clothing items were popular among Japanese visitors.

Confectionary items were next, up 46.31% to $218 (17,400 yen). It was followed by perfumes, fragrances and cosmetics, ahead 23.83% to $312 (24,900 yen), largely influenced by the boom of things Korean in Japan.

Tobacco sales grew 27.18% to $131 (10,500 yen) sold at Duty Free outlets, mainly fueled by the increased taxes on cigarettes in Japan from October 2010, a development that led to the higher numbers overall.
Meanwhile, the shopping patterns between males and females show a marked gap, according to the survey findings, pointing to how women tend to shop for themselves. Overall women buy 65.4% of all items for themselves, compared to 58.3% among their male counterparts.

The shares vary depending on items purchased. Looking at women shoppers traveling to South Korea, for example, those buying made-in-Korea cosmetics spent exclusively for themselves, a share reflecting 75%. In the category of confections, 65% were for family, friends and acquaintances as “omiyage” or gifts. When it came to made-in-Korea bags, shoes, fashion wear and accessories, 34.8% said they bought for themselves, well ahead of the 13.6% who purchased for others.

Major Purchases by Japanese by Categories, 2008~2012

Impact of Yen’s Exchange Rate on Shopping

The strong exchange rate of the Japanese currency against global currencies has motivated travelers to head overseas where consumers can take advantage of their buying power. Some 28% of women in their 20s said that the stronger yen allowed them to shop more. Some 47.6% of women in this age group said that shopping was seen as a reward for themselves, while only 26.2% of men in their 20s felt shopping was a reward. Women in their 30s (45.6%) and 50s (44.7%) said shopping was a gift to themselves.

Also, 18.9% of “twenty-something” women said that the power of the yen allowed to them to splurge more often than usual.

From late last year, the Japanese yen started to weaken, diminishing the buying power of consumers heading overseas. Duty Free shops began stepping up efforts to promote not only global brands but also began displaying more local items in hopes of appealing to more travelers.

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