At least half of all consumer goods are purchased through small, privately owned and operated shops. Street hawkers and peddlers provide certain foods and small consumer items; street stalls offer food, clothing, and household and other goods. Specialty shops exist in great profusion, and about 100 associations of such shops represent common interests. There are chain stores owned and operated by a single management and there are voluntary chains of independent stores operating in association. Japan also has numerous cooperatives, principally consumer, agricultural, and fishing. Recent revisions in the large-scale retail store law have loosened government regulation of the distribution system, allowing the establishment of large foreign discounters and megastores such as Toys-R-Us, which are likely to offer growing competition to smaller retailers in the future. As of 2002, Japan's franchise industry was the fourth largest in the world with over 900 chains accounting for about 10% of all retail sales.
A key characteristic of the country's distribution system has been the long term and carefully cultivated nature of the supplier and wholesaler or retail store relationship, necessitating considerable commitment of time and outreach effort by foreign companies wishing to enter the Japanese market.
In retail trade, cash transactions have been traditional, but various forms of installment selling are increasingly being used, especially in the sale of durable goods. The use of charge accounts is growing rapidly. Promotion by displays, advertising, and other methods used in Western countries is increasing rapidly in Japan. Advertising appears in the daily press, in the numerous weekly and monthly magazines, and in special publications of many kinds. Radio and television also carry extensive advertising, excepting those channels run by the government's Japan Broadcasting Corporation.
Normal shop hours are 10 AM to 8 PM , seven days a week, although department stores shut their doors at 7 PM and are closed one day a week; government offices are open 9 AM to 5 PM , Monday through Friday, and from 9 to 12:30 on the first and third Saturday of every month only. Banks are open from 9 AM to 3 PM Monday through Friday, and are closed on Saturdays and Sundays.