TOKYO -- Chinese visitors to Japan will soon get to squeeze more into their trips by doing much of their tax-free shopping in advance.
A new service from Laox, a Tokyo-based operator of duty-free stores, will enable foreigners to browse through gadgets, skin care products and other items on a travel guide website run by Alibaba Group Holding before leaving for Japan, buying them tax-free via the Alipay platform. They pick up the goods at Japanese Laox locations of their choice within a month of purchase.
Travelers will be able to get their hands on the items and complete the tax exemption process by showing purchase records on their smartphones and their passports.
Cosmetics and beauty devices will be among the 100 or so products available when the service starts as early as this month. The selection is expected to eventually broaden to about 5,000.
This will spare visitors from hunting for stores carrying products they want. Laox, owned by Chinese parent Suning.com, hopes to see new business coming from the partnership with the travel website, said to draw some 8 million users a day.
The service marks the first of its kind for Alibaba as well.
Travelers from abroad spent a record 4.5 trillion yen ($40.2 billion) here in 2018, according to preliminary statistics from the government's Japan Tourism Agency. But their shopping expenditures fell 74.4 billion yen on the year to just 1.56 trillion yen. Travel spending per visitor has been plateauing in recent years as well, spurring Japanese retailers to scramble for ways to lure more customers.