JapanConsuming Headlines December 2010

Dec 03

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Focus: Fewer weddings, bigger budgets
The number of weddings in Japan is falling due to a falling population, a general disinclination to get married at all and the rising age of the betrothed. The good news is that the budgets being allocated by those who do get married have been rising consistently in recent years. This is benefitting wedding service providers, but spending on wedding attire and gifts is also increasing.

Start Today spreads network
Start Today continues to consolidate its role as one of the leading sources of fashion product online, and is currently creating stronger links with consumers and business alike. It has just revamped its fashion portal Zozotown to link with key social networking tools in order to drive further mind share among shoppers, and announced a new tie up with Yahoo Japan. It is also becoming a legitimate route to the e-market for even the most prestigious luxury brands.

Rakuten expands fashion sales, and into China
Rakuten is Japan’s biggest shopping portal but its reputation as a place to buy fashion is poor compared to competitors like Amazon. To fix this it has launched new sections with page designs more suited to fashion shopping, and added fulfilment services to lure fashion brands. Adding to this appeal is its new venture in China, providing Japanese brands with a tantalising and low cost way to access Chinese keen to buy Japanese fashions.
Box: Rakuten sales jump again

Department Stores: the new wave
Despite all the more general department store doom and gloom, J-Front Retailing and Sogo/Seibu are introducing a raft of new ideas, initiatives and promotions, rapidly turning their businesses into the new leaders in this flagging sector. There have been so many new announcements over the past couple of months that it’s almost possible to think the format may not have a problem at all. At least for these two chains, that may well be the case.
Box: Department store sales up for 1st time in 32 months, apparel too

Eyewear: deflationary pressures produce new leaders
Falling prices, 20% fewer stores, farming out production to China. A familiar story and one common in the eyewear market too. For the more dynamic chains, these changes represent a huge opportunity, but pressures on existing players have caused profound changes in the fortunes of retailers. Above all, lower prices and new materials have turned specs from functional necessities to fashion accessories.
Box: German eyewear chain Mykita sets up in Japan

Stable results for top menswear chains
The biggest menswear chains have managed to keep sales levels steady, and are proving more resistant to lower consumption than smaller competitors despite lower purchase values. However, for Aoki at least all the growth is in services like Karaoke and coffee shops.

Omotesando-Meiji Dori to get new landmark
The old Gap building in Omotesando was a landmark and a familiar meeting place for many, and the announcement of the design for the new building has sparked more rumours again about the tenant line up. While one has been confirmed, two other anchor tenants are planned by landowner Tokyu. One possible candidate is Anthropologie, which has announced it will open in Japan in 2012.

Kokubu: staunchly and unavoidably alone
With both Mitsubishi and Itochu recently merging chunks of their various food wholesale subsidiaries, Kokubu, the long term sector leader suddenly finds itself a much smaller player. While it is the only large wholesaler that remains independent from any of the major trading houses, this potential strength is largely voided by its own conservative view of how distribution should be. It survives largely thanks to massive power in the channel, but even this is increasingly limited to smaller, less competitive retail clients.

Aeon to shift investment overseas
Aeon recently announced its new medium term plan, cutting back overall capital expenditure, but putting three times more into investment overseas than it has done in the past. China will see the largest chunk of this, but it will also boost existing businesses in Thailand and Malaysia, as well as open in several new markets. At home, large format GMS retailing will be de-emphasised in favour of new, smaller format retailing designed for city centres.

Metro: new store formats for Japan
German cash and carry and retail giant, Metro, is pushing ahead with major expansion plans for Japan. Having covered outer Tokyo with standard Metro cash and carry outlets, it has now begun further expansion near the city centre. More significant still, the new stores will employ a made-for-Japan format.

Sun Drug to turn Direx into drugstore chain
Sun Drug is one of the top drugstore chains in the country, but operates largely in Tokyo. As with most of its larger rivals, it is looking to expand volume and reach in order to stay ahead of the pack. Last year, it took the unusual step of acquiring Direx, a non-drugstore retailer based 600 miles away in Kyushu. It is now looking to turn its new partner into the second largest drug seller on the southern island.

New in Brief
Sazaby League goes private
Lawson to acquire HMV Japan for online sales
Michael Kors: 50 stores within three years
Capitaland to invest again in Japan
Bulova comes to Japan
People love smart phones
United Arrows first TV shopping broadcast a sell out
Avon sells Japan unit
300 Uniqlo stores in Europe
Aeon launches Gal Mama fashions – but no wigs yet
Takashimaya follows Isetan-Mitsukoshi down direct sourcing route
Aeon offers mobile coupons
Calvin Klein Collection opens and closes in Harajuku
Azul by Moussy opens flagship in Shinjuku
Akihabara Atre opens
Shopstyle adds more partners
Bottega Veneta online
Beams on Amazon
Aeon gets employees Twittering
A resurgent United Arrows
Lawson warns of service problems in CVS
Yaoko to introduce value items
Overtime down, fewer companies forcing unpaid overtime
Diesel: a store with cafe
Familymart to freeze US investment
Aeon Tenshin brings in crowds
Costco to open in Kyoto
Uniqlo dives again
Seibu to boost direct buying from farms

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