In a world-first, Japanese brick-and-mortar retail mega-chain Bic Camera will conduct a bitcoin trial at two of its flagship stores in Tokyo.
This and other trials stem from new Japanese regulations accepting bitcoin as a legal form of payment, which came into effect on 1st April.
Major Physical Retailer Tests the Bitcoin Waters
The trial is in partnership with major Japanese exchange bitFlyer, who are testing their bitcoin point-of-sale system.
Starting Friday, Bic Camera will accept bitcoin payments at its huge Yurakucho retail outlet and the hybrid “Bicqlo Bic Camera” store in Shinjuku, which it operates in partnership with clothing giant Uniqlo.
The store will accept bitcoin payments of up to ¥100,000 (around $900 USD). Customers using bitcoin will also receive Bic Camera loyalty reward points, as they would with a cash payment.
Bic Camera is one of Japan’s biggest department stores. Despite the name, it sells all kinds of electronics and other goods including sports gear, bicycles, toys and household appliances.
Speaking to Bitsonline, bitFlyer CEO Yuzo Kano said his company will take any risks with BTC price fluctuation, and guarantee sales in Japanese yen (JPY).
He noted that paying in bitcoin incurs less in fees to retailers than accepting credit cards.
“A credit card fee is generally charged to the store, which is as high as 2% to 8% of sales. Bitcoin is 1%. The fee is ultimately bouncing back to the user. Users do not need to enter personal information like credit cards. If it is bitcoin, payment is completed with only an anonymous bitcoin address.”
BitFlyer is able to serve retailers of all sizes, and also responds to requests from small and medium-sized shops who need immediate financing after sales. The company guarantees sales can be cashed the following day.
New Laws Show Bitcoin Legitimacy to Japanese Businesses
Japan’s new laws could see a boom in big-name retailers accepting digital currency. While little has changed in practice, official recognition confers a legitimacy on bitcoin that should convince conservative companies to experiment.
Already, more are signing on. BitFlyer’s competitor Coincheck also operates a bitcoin point-of-sale system that consumers have used in bars, restaurants and small businesses for years now.
Coincheck has a deal with the retail arm of Japanese conglomerate Recruit Holdings, to integrate bitcoin payments into Recruit’s AirRegi point-of-sale system starting this summer.
Over 260,000 restaurants and retailers across Japan use AirRegi, which is also compatible with online payment processor AliPay.
Nikkei reported that over 4,500 businesses in Japan already accept bitcoin. Visitors to the country have described that figure as fairly ambitious, at least for tourist-friendly and prominent merchants. However the number is definitely growing.
Bitsonline has an office in Tokyo and will be reporting more on the bitcoin situation in Japan over the coming weeks.
Will this news see a dramatic uptick in bitcoin use? If so, what will be the effect on reputation and price? Let us know.
Images via Wikimedia Commons, bitFlyer