Annals of cheap: High yen supermarket discounts

August 16th, 2010 by Philip Brasor & Masako Tsubuku

Making your yen go further

Making your yen go further

Deflation is a drag on the economy since it keeps wages low and depresses demand, but most consumers like it for reasons that aren’t difficult to comprehend. The recent spike in the value of the yen should also translate as savings at the cash register, certainly in terms of imported goods, but the lag time is difficult to gauge and, in any case, it seems a lot of importers and wholesalers just refuse to pass the savings on to the public. As reported in this space earlier, imported cheese should be cheaper, but it hasn’t really changed at all for years, supposedly because it’s considered something of a “luxury,” which means . . . what? Cheese importers have some sort of right to gouge Japanese cheese lovers?

In any case, starting Aug. 16, several nationwide supermarket chains are marking down select items on their shelves because of the high yen. Ito-Yokado, with 161 stores throughout Japan, is discounting at least 20 items a day from 10 percent to 50 percent. Many of the items are packaged goods (Crystal Geyser water, ¥78 for 500 ml) but some are agricultural products (South African grapefruit, ¥88), which is good news considering how expensive fresh produce has been this summer. The Jusco chain (300 stores), which belongs to Aeon, will offer more than 50 items at discount, including salmon from Chile (¥178 for 100 grams) and American broccoli (100 grams for ¥88), with different items being added or taken from the list on a day-to-day basis. Ito-Yokado’s program ends Aug. 22, and Jusco says that its discount plan will continue “until at least Aug. 22.” As for other big chains, Daiei says it it considering doing the same, and Seiyu has no plan to get on the bandwagon.

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