Compared with countries such as the Federal Republic of Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States, the marketing set-up (wholesale and retail) in Japan still consists of an unusually large number of small and medium-sized units which purchase only a small volume of goods. Although over the past two decades some branch systems and—usually regional—joint purchasing arrangements have been established by small retailers in Japan, the degree of concentration and the volume of purchases via the joint purchasing offices is still relatively small. In the Federal Republic, by contrast, some 50% of food products and semi-luxuries sold are ordered through only ten powerful purchasing offices, all of which have efficient import organizations. In Japan, on the other hand, the comparatively great fragmentation of purchases over a large number of small purchasing offices tends to act as a barrier to imports. For these small purchasing offices not only do not have an overall view of supply conditions on world markets, they also—and especially—lack specialized know-how and the necessary technical facilities. As against this it should be noted that the large types of retailing enterprise, particularly the large department store operators and chain store companies have increasingly been setting up purchasing offices and branches overseas. By September 1986 such offices and branches totalled 135, over half of them (69) in Asia, 31 in North America and 32 in Europe. Small retailers, too, have tended to step up their importing activities.