JapanConsuming: Headlines September 2009

Sep 02

Focus: Falling apparel consumption hammers retailers
The results for leading apparel retailers for FY2008 show the effect of the fall off in consumption in the second half of the year. So few companies were spared that little can be gained from looking at growth versus decline. Instead, for the most part, the measure of success is found in the extent to which companies kept sales from falling more than a few percent. The overwhelming collapse in sales is encouraging further concentration among the largest and better funded retailers.

Isetan to cut out apparel firms
Isetan will start working with fabric and yarn suppliers directly from this Autumn to develop its own lines of store branded apparel, cutting out apparel manufacturer/wholesalers. This is a bold and radical change of policy. If others follow, it will change not only department store operations, sales and profitability, but will also have a major impact on the fortunes of Japan’s more traditional apparel groups, which depend so much on the department store channel.

Aeon to open outlet malls
Aeon says it wants to enter the outlet mall business next year. The plan could give a new lease of life to all those shopping centres Aeon built in such a rush over the last five years. It will also take advantage of the expertise of Mitsubishi Shoji, Aeon’s partner and shareholder, and the leading shareholder in Chelsea Japan, the largest outlet mall operator in Japan.

Tesco launches Japanese own brands
Tesco Japan has introduced more of its international know how to the chain of Tsurukame stores it owns here, with a new range of Tesco own brands making its debut last month.

Ikea pushing locals hard
Ikea is officially Japan’s number three furniture retailer – not bad for a company with just five stores that launched only three years ago. Its only serious rival, Nitori, is about five times the size, but the gap looks set to narrow fast.

Seven Eleven: too powerful
The repercussions of Seven Eleven being slapped with a warning by the FTC continue to spread, with franchisees so upset that they’re suing the retailer for past losses.

Apparel groups shift away from department store dependence
The largest apparel firms are spurning investment in department stores in favour of other formats and channels, particularly shopping centres, fashion and station buildings and web stores. With department store apparel sales in apparent free fall, down double figures in the last year for most stores, apparel brands have woken up to the need to shift sales to channels where consumers are actually buying.

Cross Company signs Thom Browne
Cross Company has a devoted fan base and sales have risen 10 fold in seven years. Until now it has focused on the accessible womenswear fashion market, but a recently announced license and distribution deal with well-regarded US designer, Thom Browne, provides a whole new dimension to its business.

Wholesalers: a surprisingly good year but can it continue?
The wholesale sector in Japan remains huge and important in the supply chain for the majority of categories. In electronics, wholesaling has become a purely logistics function for the most part, but in food, apparel and drugstore products, it is still key and both retailers and manufacturers use and rely on middlemen. Surprisingly, while everyone else suffered, some wholesalers had a reasonably good 2008.

Discount jeans battle intensifies
Aeon has announced a new jeans line for ¥880, ¥100 lower than S&I’s The Price and ¥110 lower than GU, which fired the first shot in this battle. While lowering prices on jeans is catching the headlines, this battle is part of a larger war to carve out territory in a new apparel market with a lower base level of prices and much higher expectations of value from consumers.

Young Japanese consumers becoming home bodies
A recent Hakuhodo survey comparing young people in Japan and China shows some startling differences, and suggests yet more reasons to be concerned over Japan’s future demographics.

Uniqlo to launch in department stores
Fast Retailing is increasingly optimistic about the potential future for its low cost GU chain, having found some production sources cheap enough to deliver at PR-driving low prices. With GU finally looking to come good, it is now positioning Uniqlo as a fashion value chain. Two developments this Autumn will facilitate this: opening in top level department stores and the launch of the Jil Sander collection.

Largest retail stores down 6.2% in 2008
Nikkei’s annual ranking of the leading department stores in the country was published in mid-August. Unsurprisingly, very few of the 239 stores in the list saw sales increase last year.

News in Brief
Isetan Mitsukoshi to spin off seven stores
Direct Mail up 6.7% in 2008
Aeon to offer funeral services
Own brand beer at Aeon and Seven & I
A third of women visit H&M
Seven & I drugstores offer cosmetics counselling
Tokyo Fashion Collection to sell through Lawson
TopShop to expand faster
Matsuya adds more glitz
Kitson in Harajuku: more than ¥100 million in first weeks?
Cross border shopping through Rakuten
Cocokara Fine enters Russian market
TGC adds more corporate names
Summer bonuses fall 16.6%
Sumitomo integrates brand and retail biz
Uniqlo to take Brooks Brothers Ginza location
Lucien Pellat-Finet continues to prosper
Start Today clinches deal with Isetan
H&M’s busy Autumn
Convenience stores slump
Michael Jackson suits
New select shop chain offers sales chance
Italian jewellery brand, Colors & Glamour in Japan
Mountainwear flagship in Harajuku
Marui starts web/catalogue store for thirties women
Seiyu launches US detergent
Sundrug to combine with supermarkets
Lawson ties with Matsumotokiyoshi
Aeon acquires TV shopping firm from Mitsubishi
Familymart: Big abroad
J-Front to close Okazaki store

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