JapanConsuming Headlines: March 2013

Mar 05

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Focus: Department stores have a storming 2012
It is a very long time since department stores have been the leading retail sector, but in 2012 they did lead – at least in terms of growth among mixed merchandise retailers. The initial figures from the Japan Department Store Association showed a tiny 0.3% rise in same store sales, enough to confirm that what the top chains were doing could be working, but the latest numbers for the leading department store properties go much further. Only two stores out of the top 15 saw sales decline in 2012, and the leading 19 department store chains outperformed their GMS and supermarket rivals by a large margin. Things are more than working, success is a real possibility.

Korean apparel giant E-Land launches in Japan
E-Land is a ¥900 billion South Korean retail conglomerate that has played a significant role in transforming Korean apparel distribution into a modern, retail-led market. It now plans to take on Japan through its own subsidiary. E-Land is an energetic and fast growing business that may cause a further shake up in the Japanese apparel industry.

Amazon Japan set to break ¥1 trillion
Amazon is already the largest non-Japanese retailer in the country, and is about to become the first to break ¥1 trillion in sales. Seen by some as another ‘black ship’ forcing open Japan’s less innovative markets, Amazon actually shows clearly that consumers here like the same things as counterparts elsewhere – and that good marketing is good marketing no matter where it’s used.

Urban Research to open By Malene Bilger stores, sales to rise 30%
Urban Research has created a fruitful relationship with specialist trading firm and distributor Yagi Tsusho to bring promising overseas retail chains to Japan. The deals are part of a bigger plan to diversify beyond its eponymous core chain and reach a new target of ¥34 billion in sales in FY2013, jumping a third on FY2011.

Coop announces it will absorb tax hike
The Japan Cooperative Union has announced it will cut wholesale prices on some own brand products from 1 April 2014, allowing coop chains to keep prices low despite the increase in Consumption Tax. The move is unprecedented and since the coop sells more than ¥3 trillion at retail a year, other retailers could well follow suit in order to maintain their competitive positions.

Regional department store sales collapsing
The Japan Department Store Association (JDSA) was delighted to report the first upturn in same store sales in 16 years in 2012, and results for the country’s leading stores reconfirms that it was indeed a very good year for the top department stores (see Focus Page 12). The top 55 stores recorded sales of ¥4.2 trillion last year, 69% of the entire department store market, with the remaining 31% spread across 204 stores.

Osaka Metro creates SC brand
Tokyo Metro is delighted with the results from its growing chain of in-station shopping areas and Osaka is now playing catch up, creating its own brand of SC for Osaka metro stations.

Home Centres: consolidation at the top
A small, niche market, but one with a lot of potential for overseas suppliers, home centres continue to modernise, with high levels of concentration at the top of the ranking.

Importers bring more brands to Japan
Until recently, importer-distributors benefited from a strong yen. This may be over for now but a more critical benign trend has been strong consumer demand for premium international brands, one that seems to be holding up. Many distributors say they are expanding and continue to sign new brands.

Seiyu: difficult year, but coming good
Local press leapt on the news that Seiyu, Walmart’s Japanese subsidiary, finally saw a downturn in same store sales in 2012. This was the first fall in three years, although Seiyu is likely to still have beaten performance at most of its rivals. Price leadership remains the chain’s core strategy, and as consumers become more aware of inflation, it could soon see a short-term downturn turn into a long-term gain.

Online fashion sales climbing fast
Online fashion sales are growing fast from a low base and there is now genuine traction. More retailers are committing investment to both web sites and back end logistics, and non-store retailers are bringing out new brands specifically for the online channel, shifting further away from dependence on traditional media. For retailers the key focus is on finding ways to leverage the value in their physical stores through online to offline marketing – one retailer has found that customers that use both online and stores for shopping spend double those that only shop at its stores.

Mujirushi to post record profit
Ryohin Keikaku was Japan’s first major specialty retailer to broach the overseas market and looks set to soon have as many stores open overseas as at home. As well as international expansion, key to growth at home will be a renewed focus on apparel and station locations.

News in Brief
Onward opens first Charles & Keith store
Aeon buys Peacock supermarkets from J Front
Yu-Shin Creation launches rival to Denmark’s Tiger
Louis Vuitton prices up 12%
Anpanman and Pokemon still the TOP characters
JR Hakata City attracts 100 million
Sogo-Seibu appoints new president to ramp own brand development
Otto Japan launches new brand, plans to double Japan sales
Bag and handbag market falls 0.8% in 2012
Parco to double Fukuoka SC
Fashion Box opens 2nd Replay flagship
Aoyama Shoji to open first department store outlets
Jewellery market expands 1.8% in 2012
HEP Five to get first upgrade in 15 years
Isetan prepares for Shinjuku relaunch
New Aeon Malls in March
Rakuten to absorb Stylife
Work not Work opens in Kitte
Cocokara Fine Holdings continues to consolidate
Takihyo ends Anne Klein license
Japanese advertising market rises for first time in five years
Kate Spade launches new brand in Japan
Kokubu sales jump 2.1%, operating profit dives
Triumph launches new premium brand
Aeon to generate its own electricity at 100 stores
Chinese apparel imports drop below 80%