Cover of MoneyWeek magazine issue no 481

Ride the Asian tiger

9 April 2010 / Issue 481

Where to make money in the East...

PLUS:

  • What an election means for UK stocks
  • Britain urgently needs more banks
  • How I made millions from mini-cabs

Excerpt

Grab a bargain by iPhone

The Japanese have encountered an unlikely foe in their fight against the deflation that has ravaged their economy over the last 20 years: the urban housewife. Close on 8,000 Japanese supermarkets are now under the spotlight of the Mainichi Tokubai (everyday bargaining) mobile website. This scrutinises their prices (via the visits and voucher-scouring of 25,000 enthusiastic ‘regional correspondents’) and uploads every single one to the site. The result? Tens of thousands of users of the site have at their fingertips what the Wall Street Journal calls a “devastating weapon” in the battle for bargains.

They rush to the cheapest places to do their shopping, leaving the supermarkets with no choice but to keep dropping their prices to “compete with the lowest price on offer in any given region”. It’s a nightmare for any retailer who was hoping that the signs of recovery in the Japanese economy might mean they could finally get away with a few itsy weeny price rises. They can’t. That might be good for the individual, trying to stretch a wage that’s barely risen in real terms for two decades, but it isn’t so good for the economy.

But before you start thanking your lucky stars that crowds of bargain-surfing housewives are one eco-nomic problem we don’t have, cast your eye over the list of newish apps available for the iPhone (to which I am a relatively new and very happy convert). The one that should be getting retailers thinking is Voucher-cloud.

• Read the full editor’s letter here:
Grab a bargain by iPhone