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Business trends

Japan's department stores struggle for direction in age of COVID

'Kings of retail' seek new growth, but experts warn online shift is not enough

Takashimaya Nihombashi in Tokyo reopened on May 18 after being closed for more than a month due to the coronavirus. (Photo by Makoto Okada)

TOKYO -- The women's floor of the Takashimaya Nihombashi department store was filled with colorful summer outfits and red-and-yellow sale signs, and shop attendants waiting to greet customers with friendly calls of "Irasshaimase," or "welcome." The only thing missing was the customers.

The store's midsummer sales campaign usually attracts throngs of bargain-hungry shoppers, but with Japan's coronavirus cases on the rise again and the country's borders still closed to most foreign travelers, brick-and-mortar retailers are struggling to win back customers. Sales at Takashimaya Nihombashi in July -- normally one of its busiest months -- dropped 18%.

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