JAPAN: major electronics retailer price-matches online shops to tackle 'showrooming'

Yodobashi Camera's Akiba store (picture: Jocelyn Strob Simard)

It's becoming a major problem for retailers: customers try or have demonstrations of products in their local shops, then go online to buy in order to get the best price. Now one of Japan's larger consumer electronics retailers is aiming to tackle this 'showrooming' trend – by price-matching online offers.

Yodobashi Camera has put up signs in its huge eight-floor outlet in Akiba – Tokyo's 'electric town' – offering consumers able to show a lower online tag a price match.

The company – which has 21 large stores in Japan, and despite its name sells everything from photographic gear to TVs, computers and domestic appliances – has become concerned that the 'showrooming' trend has started to hit its sales, as it has in the States.

But as Japanese commentators have suggested, that means it's going to have to offer big discounts on some major items, since a TV can sell for 30% less online than Yodobashi offers it at its 'bricks and mortar' locations.

Retailers in Japan are suffering from the aggressive inroads Amazon is making into that market, along with the arrival of price-comparison websites such as Kakaku.com (above) and smartphone apps enabling shoppers to scan the barcode on an item in-store and instantly see results from a range of price-comparison engines.

Kakaku claims to have 35m users a month, and covers everything from consumer electronics to clothing and food, while one smartphone app has already been downloaded 650,000 times.

Amazon has annual sales of some Y500bn (£4bn) in Japan.

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Andrew has written about audio and video products for the past 20+ years, and been a consumer journalist for more than 30 years, starting his career on camera magazines. Andrew has contributed to titles including What Hi-Fi?, GramophoneJazzwise and Hi-Fi CriticHi-Fi News & Record Review and Hi-Fi Choice. I’ve also written for a number of non-specialist and overseas magazines.