JapanConsuming Headlines: March 2010

Mar 09

2009 12-month results: couldn’t have been worse
The calendar year results for 2009 are unusually important. In addition to providing a hint at how financial performances may turn out with the end of year results to be announced in February and March, the numbers this year show a clear picture of how different formats are coping with the difficult economy. Not too surprisingly, the general picture suggests that few are coping well.

More foreign brands set up shop
The year on year decline in apparel and fashion spending is not deterring overseas brands from setting up in Japan. While big names like H&M, Abercrombie & Fitch, and Forever 21 get all the headlines, numerous other companies have entered or reentered the market in the last year on their own or through local distributors.

Foreign aid for retailers: tourists
Department stores have been the main beneficiaries of the influx of Asian tourists to Japan’s shopping streets but it seems fashion and station buildings are also getting their fair share of custom from these new saviours of Japanese retailing.

Flandre: Nippon value fashion
Fast fashions are a clear hit with consumers but there are still few local companies offering a genuine fast fashion brand. While Point’s Lowry’s Farm set the standard for low cost SPA fashion retailing and Uniqlo the same in basics, but so far there is no genuine fast fashion response to the international chains. Now six members of the old apparel and textile establishment have come together to fight back, not with a fast fashion chain, but with a planned 50-125 stores which they claim will be less about being fast and more about being good quality: a value fashion chain.

Shibuya 109 to launch in Yokohama
Tokyu Malls will launch a new 109 building this Spring, just in time to make up for falling sales at the flagship in Shibuya, which is being hit by both competition from cheaper chains and shrinking pocket money allowances for the core target market of teenage children and students.
Box: Colette Mare opens in March featuring TopShop

Cross Company to open triple sales in 5 years
Cross Company has quadrupled sales in four years, an impressive performance, matched by a 30% increase in like for like sales last year alone. Not surprisingly, it now thinks it can triple sales during the next five years.

Uniqlo invests in category brands
Uniqlo continues to invest in developing its merchandise to appeal to more fashion consumers. One way it is doing this is creating strong sub brands based on product categories. The first was UT for designer t-shirts and last month it introduced UJ to relaunch its jeans range and differentiate it from the sub-¥1,000 offerings from cheaper chains. There are also plans to boost investment in Uniqlo Shoes and sportswear.

Aoyama diversifies
Aoyama Shoji has come up with several solutions to combat the fall in demand for suits: close its own stores, sign franchise deals with everyone from ¥100 chains to denim brands, expand womenswear, and make its remaining stores more efficient.

Longchamp: beating the market
Longchamp is not the biggest luxury brand in the world, but it has a significant pedigree in Japan. The French leather goods brand opened here some 50 years ago, only 10 years or so after being founded in 1948. Since then, intelligent, independent management has guided the brand to significant success, with even 2009 reportedly showing growth while most rivals floundered.

Retail brands: more expensive in Japan
Retail brands are now here to stay. While still behind the UK and some other European countries in terms of market share, all the major food retailers are firmly committed to expanding retail brand sales and they’re being helped by small and medium sized manufacturers desperate to use excess factory capacity. The quality and presentation of brands themselves is also improving steadily.

Ainz Tulpe: the future of cosmetics retailing
Ainz Tulpe is the first of a new breed of beauty orientated drugstore opened as part of the joint venture between Ain Pharmaciez and Seven & I Holdings. The first major outlet for the new format opened in Ikebukuro in November and looks like a clear winner – even though, in terms of the concept, there’s a lot about the store that is reminiscent of Sephora or Boots, both overseas chains that failed in Japan.

Seiyu: big changes afoot
Seiyu, the Wal-Mart owned supermarket chain that ranks number three in the country by volume, recently appointed a new CEO, Toru Noda. In an unusual wave of openness, Noda wasted no time in appearing in several press reports emphasising just how much progress the US retailer has made and hinting at major steps forward in the near future. BOX: Seiyu sells discount women’s suits

News in Brief:
Sakuraya closes down, Best Denki also closing outlets
Outlet malls booming
Matsuzakaya Nagoya to close in August
Canadian private shopping club launches in Japan
Department stores too expensive says survey
Aeon to sell off Talbots
Comme des Garcons collaborates with Moncler
Fast Retailing wants to be biggest in world
ABC Mart opens more department store concessions
Look buys A.P.C. Japan
Sanei and Look become more international
Yamada confirms China entry
Uniqlo to open in Taiwan
Nitori: yet another round of price cuts
Fancl to expand into SE Asia
Daiei to get a new president
Toyota Tsusho buys into e-commerce business
Suzutan quits men’s apparel
Special shirts online store selling well
Bathing Ape’s Baby Milo in licensing deal
Vintage 55 selling well
Liu-Jo comes to Japan
Muji homes inside and out
New shopping zone at Tokyo Station
Betty Smith does tailored denims
United Arrows recycles suits and shoes
Jeansmate quits variety business
Mizuno launches custom sneakers
Isetan reopens in Shanghai

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