The duty-free store in Mitsukoshi

TOKYO — Duty-free shoppers are no longer relegated to last-minute purchases at the airport.

Isetan Mitsukoshi Holdings, Japan’s largest department store operator, is opening a duty-free store in the heart of Tokyo’s busiest shopping districts. The new store, which opens Wednesday, is located on the eighth floor of the Mitsukoshi Ginza department store, which is already a shopping destination for many international tourists. Isetan is teaming up with the city’s airport authorities and NAA Retailing Corp. for the project.

The 35,500-square-foot floor includes sections for cosmetics, alcohol and tobacco, and artisanal Japanese products, as well as individual stores for nine luxury brands including Tiffany, Jimmy Choo, Bottega Veneta and Balenciaga. It houses the first Boucheron duty-free store in the world, as well as the first Valentino and Saint Laurent duty-free stores in Japan.

Customers to the store will be asked to present their passports and air tickets or itineraries at the central reception counter. Anyone flying out of Japan from one of Tokyo’s two airports (Narita and Haneda) within one month will be able to shop at the store, and they can pick up their purchases from the duty-free counter at the airport after checking in for their flight.

Products available for purchase at the store range from Japanese whiskey and cigarettes to handmade teapots and top-of-the-line watches by brands such as Citizen and Seiko. Some brands, such as Origins, are not currently available elsewhere in Japan, while brands including Albion are not available at other duty-free stores in the country.

Yasuhide Yonemoto, senior managing director of Japan Airport Terminal, said the store is targeting 2,000 customers per day, roughly 80 percent of whom are expected to be non-Japanese.

The number of overseas visitors to Japan increased 47 percent last year, according to preliminary figures released by the Japan National Tourism Organization. This drastic increase in tourism in the country has helped to boost sales at department stores, which have been stagnant in recent years due to the changing buying patterns of Japanese consumers. Chinese tourists are flocking to countries like Japan and South Korea for shopping.

Nomura research analysts Daisuke Fukushima and Kentaro Maekawa said the increase in international visitors to Japan is “having a positive impact on the Japanese economy by increasing consumption at commercial facilities and tourist sites frequented by overseas visitors and raising hotel occupancy and room rates,” in a recent research report.

While the duty-free store at Mitsukoshi Ginza is the first of its kind in Tokyo, it will not be alone for long. The Tokyu Plaza Ginza Building, a development with 5.8 million square feet of floor space that is due to open on Mar. 31, will house a Lotte duty-free store, which will be the largest airport-style duty-free store in Japan’s capital.

Isetan Mitsukoshi Holdings reported net profit for the six months ended Sept. 30 jumped 78.1 percent, thanks to increased sales and lower tax payments. Both profit and sales exceeded the retailer’s own forecasts.

The retailer has been diversifying into new, smaller retail formats. Last year it opened a multibrand boutique called Isetan Salone in Tokyo’s Roppongi district.

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