April 6 2010

JapanConsuming Headlines: April 2010

Highlights from JapanConsuming monthly report

News and Analysis on Japanese retailing and consumers

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Focus: Japan only big enough for 80 department stores
J-Front’s chairman recently suggested a department store needs a catchment of a minimum of 1 million people to work. On a pro rata basis, this suggests 130 department stores could survive well enough, fewer than half the current total. However, add in population spread and transport issues, and the more realistic forecast is 80 stores, 210 less than now. This sounds shocking but is probably a given, and the real issues are first which 80 stores these will be, and second just what will happen to all that empty space?

Ace goes after women’s bags and accessories market
Ace is a major player in luggage and briefcases but until now kept away from the women’s accessory business. With its traditional markets suffering, it now sees two major opportunities. One is in developing a dedicated bag and accessories chain within Japan for consumers of fast fashions. The other is in mixing the best of Italian design and product development with its own manufacturing and distribution skills to create a new accessible bag brand for worldwide distribution.

Fashion food: Itochu’s fashion arm signs Le Pain Quotidien
Itochu’s textile company is best known for the success of licenses like Paul Smith, Vivienne Westwood and other big fashion names. But in the last decade Itochu has wanted to exploit its experience in brand management to make it the base of a powerful brand development business covering food and the home. Its latest deal with a Belgian bakery and restaurant chain is the second big deal in food, but which could also be used to increase its share of home interiors.
Box: Itochu launched home range for Jean-Charles de Castelbajac

Catalogue firms expand multi-channel options
The main story surrounding Japan’s catalogue direct marketers in recent years has been the shift to web and mobile based transactions, and expansion of e-commerce only stores. Retail stores though are also being tested as are wholesale routes, as direct marketers attempt to transform themselves into multi-channel fashion brands.

A 2nd Ginza store for Burberry, cancels bag license
Following announcements of the early cancellation of its 40 year old license with Mitsui and the creation of its own majority owned subsidiary, Burberry continues to focus investment on expanding its network of directly operated stores, while closing down more of its local licensees in favour of imported product.

Michael Kors sets up in Japan
Michael Kors follows Burberry in creating its own subsidiary here in order to better control and profit from distribution of its fast expanding accessories business.

Japan’s LGBT market worth ¥6 trillion
A recent research study suggests that Japan’s LGBT market may be as large as ¥6.6 trillion, or roughly equivalent to the liquor market. It remains, compared to many western countries at least, a market still in the closet with mostly failed examples of companies that tried to target gays here.

JR East: Japan’s most profitable retailer
JR East’s acquisition of the Kinokuniya supermarket chain will have far reaching consequences. Despite the chain being small and having a poor recent record, it is a brand that remains strong and brings a food retailing option and knowhow in the category that JR has so far lacked. As bigger retail groups continue to struggle to bring their unwieldy set of distracted retail options into profit, the move into food could spell long term trouble for the likes of Seven & I and Aeon.

Home centres: another format in change
Japan’s nearest equivalent to the DIY retailers of the West are home centres. These are large stores offering everything for the house and home, including services and merchandise aimed at professional builders. Like other large formats, however, they are losing customers to chains with greater merchandise specialisation in more convenient locations. Although home centres are generally successful, even here, big store retailing is less and less popular.

First true Coop Net supermarket to open
Cooperative Society run supermarket chains don’t feature on many people’s radar. They are frequented by older customers in some regional markets, notably Kobe and Sapporo, but nowadays, the big national retail chains are in the lead. That situation could begin to change thanks to deregulation and the coop’s experience in direct-to-door food distribution.

Kintetsu: can’t rely on the rich anymore
Kintetsu Department Store remains independent, but with few genuinely good locations and a strong tie to its private railway parent, possibilities for merger are perhaps few. Until now, it has been sustained by taking a quarter of turnover from wealthy account holders, but even this market is now in serious decline. With a major loss looming for FY2009, the chain is looking at some serious cost cutting.

Consumers still want luxury brands
Despite the market shrinking overall, consumers remain highly interested in luxury brands and, given the money, are willing to buy high quality items. For younger consumers this is, claim experts, partly an expression of insecurity, leading to buying the best as a guarantee of quality. Nothing new there, but at least some reassurance for the brands hoping to adjust to meet the needs of more money conscious clientele.

Men cook – but only when they have to
A recent survey suggests that Japanese men are more than happy to cook – at least when their wives or mothers aren’t there to do it for them. The growth in single person households has helped this trend, but it is the higher income male who cooks most, and out of interest rather than economic necessity. This is the market most likely to grow in the future.

Drugstore markets all gain
While department stores, GMS chains and even most specialty chain sectors floundered in 2009, drugstores showed yet another strong year of sales growth. The rate of growth is down on previous years, but the improvement again shows what can be done when retailers take control of their own destiny – and are spurred on by deregulation. BOX: Cokokara Fine and Allied Hearts to merge

News in Brief
Takashimaya and H2O cancel merger plans
Tully’s owners open Eggs ‘n Things in Japan
US used apparel brand launches
Brands4friends launches
Itochu sells Illums stake
Daimaru Matsuzakaya is born, Mitsui and Itochu to open outlet mall in China
Daimaru sales and profit up
Daimaru publishes in-store sales rankings
Tory Burch on a roll
Zozo adds more brands
Carrefour: no more in Japan
People Tree expands collaborations
Kitson and H&M in Kyushu
Tokyo Girls Collection: biggest ever show
Shimamura posts record profits
¥990 shoes from Chiyoda
More supermarkets charging for carrier bags
Nitori posts further significant gains
Aeon does specialty – again
Kokubu moves into China
Itochu to acquire Nippon Access
CCC pursues HMV Japan business
Aeon bids for CFS
The Price added to Ito-Yokado net super operations
Seven & I to join credit card operations with Credit Saison
Lawson launches Ponta
Takashimaya leaves the US


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