TOKYO -- Major convenience store chains including Seven-Eleven Japan and Lawson will start accepting the popular China UnionPay bank and credit cards at all outlets, hoping to tap shopping among Chinese tourists known for bulk purchasing.
Jointly funded by major Chinese banks, 5 billion cards had been issued as of the end of last year. They are accepted at about 400,000 stores in Japan.
Users spend an average 35,000 yen per purchase, with debit transactions accounting for 30% and credit purchases the rest. Japan-based transactions from January to August came to around a little over 500 billion yen ($4.1 billion), growing three-fold from the same period a year earlier and easily surpassing the 2014 total of 280 billion yen.
Starting the first of next month, Seven & i Holdings will take UnionPay credit cards at about 18,000 Seven-Eleven stores by modifying cash registers, in time for China's Oct. 1-7 holiday week. With customers already withdrawing Japanese currency at Seven Bank automated teller machines, a credit option is expected to boost shoppers' convenience.
Seven & i also plans to increase the number of stores capable of processing consumption tax waivers from about 1,000 currently to 3,000 by the end of fiscal 2015.
A growing number of Chinese have been buying products by the case at Seven-Eleven to take home, such as lotions and chocolate items.
The credit cards will also be accepted at around 180 branches of Ito-Yokado, a department store chain owned by Seven & i, starting Sept. 29. About 150 outlets currently take debit cards.
Lawson will take UnionPay credit cards at its 12,000 locations starting Sept. 24. The chain also plans to increase stores with dedicated tourist sections featuring foreign-language signs and bulk purchase options for daily goods from the current 200.
Lawson customers can withdraw Japanese currency at 1,000 sites using UnionPay credit and debit cards with a new type of ATM starting Sept. 28. The chain aims to attract repeat shoppers, offering 200-yen discount coupons for those who have spent 2,000 yen or more.
FamilyMart currently has 250 outlets accepting the cards and plans to make all outlets ready for UnionPay credit card transactions by January 2016.