Shorter hours spreading to Japan’s retail sector


(Source: Nikkei Asian Review | 8 March 2017)

More Japanese retailers are adopting earlier closing times to cope with a deepening labor shortage, worried that the prospect of late-night shifts could scare off potential new workers.

The practice first gained traction among short-staffed restaurant operators, and now the retail sector is being forced to think about the work-life balance.

Shopping center operator Lumine will close 12 of its Lumine- and NEWoMan-brand locations 30 minutes earlier starting in April, allowing for differences by location and floor and between weekdays and weekends. The Lumine flagship in Tokyo’s Shinjuku district, for example, will close all stores except restaurants at 9:30 p.m. daily, while the Ikebukuro location, also in Tokyo, will close at 9 p.m. on weekends and holidays.

Roughly 80% of the company’s locations and around 34,000 workers will be affected by the changes, which is the first large-scale adjustment to Lumine’s operating hours. The goal is to lessen the burden later closings put on employees of short-staffed tenant businesses.

Similar cutbacks are catching on in smaller cities as well. H2O Retailing unit Hankyu Hanshin Department Stores will close some floors at its Hankyu store in Fukuoka’s Hakata Station an hour earlier, excluding Fridays and Saturdays, starting in April. Keihan Holdings’ chain of Keihan department stores will begin closing certain departments at its Moriguchi location in Osaka Prefecture at 7 p.m., an hour earlier than before.

Japan’s seasonally adjusted jobs-to-applicants ratio stood at a steep 1.43 in January. The restaurant and retail sectors have had particular trouble attracting workers. Changing consumption patterns, including the rise of online shopping and food delivery services, have spurred the cuts to hours as well.

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