Handset brings shopping mall to you

Tokyo, February 13:

Hitomi Terada is in the mood to shop. The 18-year-old has no credit card and very little cash on her, but that doesn’t matter: all she needs to shop at her favourite mall is the mobile phone that rarely leaves her sight.

A few seconds of tapping away at her handset, and she can be the owner of the latest brand-name bag or boots. Two or three days later the goods arrive at her home, along with the bill, which she pays at her local post office.

Terada, who is in her final year at high school, is one of millions of young Japanese women behind the phenomenal growth of mobile shopping. According to a report by the economy, trade and industry ministry, a body that promotes next-generation electronic commerce, ‘m-shopping’ was worth 971 billion yen in 2004, a 25 per cent incre-ase from the year before, with sal-es of clothes and jewellery leaping by 80 per cent. Industry watc-hers are impressed, but not surprised, by the pace of the m-commerce boom.

“There is a quaint custom of catalogue shopping in Japan,” says Lawrence Cosh-Ishii, director of digital media at the online publication Wireless Watch Jap-an, “It’s not like in the US, where most people want to touch what they’re buying first. In that sense it isn’t such a huge leap, especially when you consider how often people already use their handsets.” The Girls Walker range of online magazines, which offer free sign-ups to sites aimed at fashion-conscious youngsters, have about seven million subscribers. More than 70 per cent of them are women aged between 20 and 34 whose obsession with getting their hands on the latest fashions, cosmetics and jewellery has made the site the most popular portal of its kind since its launch in June 2000.

With more than 43 million Japanese now using 3G handsets, firms are taking advantage of the online shopping boom.

This spring the consumer electronics maker Toshiba will release software that enables online shoppers to check item’s quality and reputation.