JapanConsuming: Headlines July/August 2010

Jul 07
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Focus: Retail Results FY2009 The complete picture: dynamic retailers to the fore
The latest financial results for FY2009 are now out. It was not a good year for many given the economic problems and consumers who are still unwilling to spend, but even so, a good number of retailers produced very solid gains, both in terms of sales and profits. In most cases, these are the younger, more dynamic firms in the most competitive sectors.

Shimamura: now in cities
Shimamura was one of the few apparel retailers to grow in FY2009. The publicity shy suburban chain has built a solid and dependable business by focusing on keeping costs low, and delivering cheap basics for families living in suburbs and outlying regions. It is now moving into the major cities and could open as many as 200 urban stores as part of its drive to create a 2,000 store network.

Isetan Mitsukoshi integration accelerates
With Isetan and Mitsukoshi now the same company, the old buying groups of affiliated department stores are no longer a workable part of the department store supply chain now that brands and tenant concepts will just be replicated in a competing store just down the road. At the same time, store brand development is picking up as the group tries to position itself away from rivals and this is likely to be one way it will exploit the greater market share created by merger.

J Front Retailing to sell used luxury goods
A department store brokering second hand bags and jewellery sounds less department store and more pawnbroker, resulting in quite a few bemused reactions after the announcement of just such a plan by J Front. But the Daimaru Matsuzakaya operator has come up with a novel idea. While it is selling used goods, it is mixing messages about recycling and social action while exploiting the key advantages department stores still have over specialty chains: trust and a reputation for high levels of service.

Nespresso launches in Matsuya’s depachika
Nespresso has built a loyal fan base in Japan through focused marketing and thorough attention to customer service. While it has created a network of 17 locations in department stores, all of these are in relatively low footfall sales floors. Last month saw a breakthrough, with the first Nespresso opening in the thronging basement of Matsuya’s Ginza store.

Tesco: now called Tesco
Tesco Japan is in the process of converting its various store fasciae to the Tesco name in a programme it began at the beginning of the year. The decision to put the British company’s name on the stores was long expected and suggests a positive future for Tesco’s plans in Japan.

Konaka ties with Dondon Down on Wednesday
What to do when sales of suits are falling and even when they do sell, prices are being pressured ever lower by competitors? Closing stores is one option but the drop in turnover and cost of closure comes at a time when profitability is already hard to achieve. The alternative, increasingly chosen by the major suit chains, is to diversify, and the hot new business is used clothing.

Retail brands under attack
There have been both positive and negative reports on the state of private brand use in food and FMCG categories over the past month. Japan’s manufacturing sector is keen to say experiments with retail brands are failing, while many supermarkets still insist it’s just the beginning. Compared to other markets, Japan lags behind, but the use of private labels is fast becoming a vital part of retail strategy.

Rakuten goes global
Rakuten has been talking about its plans to become a global retail portal for the last five years, but until this year had done little more to achieve this than setting up subsidiaries in the US and Europe. Since January it has linked with China’s number one search engine to cover that market, bought Buy.com in the US, and last month it acquired France’s biggest online retailer, PriceMinister. And it says its shopping spree is not over.

Daiei introduces themed sales areas
Daiei continues to concentrate on food and FMCG in the belief that this is the best way to find a profitable future, but the problem is what to put in the rest of its more cavernous stores. To solve this problem, last month it introduced new in-store concepts for hikers and babies & toddlers.

Seibu Ikebukuro: the experimental department store
Having taken over full operational management of Millennium Retailing, Seven & I Holdings is breathing some much needed innovation into its department stores. After acquiring the business in 2006, it let long-time department store executives continue to manage the Seibu and Sogo stores that make up Millennium, but with predictably bad results. Now, things are changing rapidly.

More brands set up in Japan
While direct foreign investment into Japan is the lowest among advanced economies, it does continue to benefit from investment from fashion brands lured by both the size of the fashion market, and the strategic importance of Japan as a marketing capital for fashion branding in Asia.

Orizzonti bankrupt
A famous name in international brand distribution files for bankruptcy, casting doubt over the future distribution of brands like Vivienne Westwood, but the likely result will be a debt free new business with continued strong links to Itochu.

Major push in new drugstores
Ain Pharmaciez, Qol and Nihon Chozai have announced that they will double new store openings in the next 2-3 years. Despite fears of saturation, the big companies still see a lot of share to be grabbed from surviving mom-and-pop pharmacies, and all are eager to soak up more of the market for profitable prescription drugs.

Kuipo enters apparel market
Wendy’s returning to Japan?
Shrinking middle class
Laguna Moon: the new Cecil McBee?
Kinokuniya, Toppan to offer books for the iPad
Muji, Aeon and Marui launch clothing recycling project
Tokyo Style signs Haute Hippie
Lindt opens Asia’s first Lindt cafe in Ginza
Aeon to offer cut price beer flavoured drinks
Golf market shrinks 2.2%
Ships launches web store
Strong sales for Barbie
Samantha Thavasa opens in Taiwan
Narita pushes retailing
Shimamura in Odaiba summer festival
Seven Premium brands launched in China
Isetan Mitsukoshi plans to lure tourists
Gucci opens sneaker store
Folli Follie ties with Uniqlo and Fujitsu
Kiddyland Omotesando to close for rebuilding
Petit Bateau lowers prices
Don Quijote in Ikebukuro
shifting production out of China
Takashimaya creates ties with hotels
Uniqlo stores in Malaysia and Taiwan
Ex-Point chief moves to Narumiya
Overseas firms like Japan
Yamato runs metro logistics experiment in Sapporo
Yellow Hat to open in South Korea
Rakuten and Fast Retailing shift to English

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