|Tokyo used to be known as the most expensive place
in the world, but economic conditions over the past decade have led
to a breakdown in the traditional price structure. A prominent symbol
of this price breakdown is the 100-yen shops offering a surprising
array of goods for the equivalent of less than one U.S. dollar. These
stores, which can be found on just about every shopping street, carry
underwear, toiletries, tools, tableware and kitchenware, stationery,
toys, cosmetics, and snack foods, to name just a few categories.
One thing that allows the stores to offer their wares so cheaply
is quick sales at low profit margins. Besides ordering in bulk,
the shops also buy up excess inventory - a strategy that allows
them to offer deep discounts on goods that would normally sell for
¥2,000 or ¥3,000.
The 100-yen retail sector is fiercely competitive. If a store fails to provide
a ceaseless parade of new goods, customers will take their business
elsewhere. The largest chain in the business, with 2,400 locations
in Japan and several other Asian countries, carries some 60,000 different
items and introduces 700 new items each month. Shopping at 100-yen
stores is one Tokyo diversion that is easy on the wallet.