JapanConsuming: Headlines March 2011

Mar 04

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Focus: A resounding cheer from big retailers in 2010
The 2010 calendar year results show a marked improvement on 2009, with yet more clear signs of revival for department stores and a certain buoyancy in other retail sectors. Sales for Tokyo department stores may be at almost half what they were in 1990 but the best stores are seeing a revival under new management. Large GMS and supermarket chains also had a much better year and there is no stopping the convenience stores.

Aeon takes large stake in Parco
Aeon has grabbed a large stake in Parco, seemingly out of the blue. The largest retail group undoubtedly sees numerous possibilities for joint business between its own shopping centre operations and that of Parco, both at home and overseas. Meanwhile, the move presents a new and unwelcome challenge to Mori Trust, Parco’s current largest shareholder.

All eyes on Kansai
The upcoming opening of Mitsukoshi Isetan at Osaka Station in May is just one of many department store developments planned in the city over the next few months. This is the culmination of several years of rebuilding in an attempt to offset the threat from the first Isetan managed store to open in Kansai in 14 years. By the end of 2012, the Osaka station area alone will be home to 250,000 sqm of department store sales space. Can it cope?

More brands invest in Japan
With Europe now facing tougher trading conditions than Japan, the archipelago is looking like an ever more attractive place to do business, and there is more news of brands investing here and signing distribution deals.

Book store revolution: not quite yet
Book sellers the world over are facing mounting pressure from new, cheaper, electronic alternatives. Japan is not alone in having a heavily protected media publishing industry, but that protection goes a long way; book, magazine, CD and DVD sellers not only enjoy legally fixed retail prices, but digital disks face heavy import duties, even when they are Japanese content simply produced in factories overseas, and publishers have pushed for multiple royalty payments for themselves and their authors when a book is sold secondhand. Change will be hard fought.

Online food shopping ready for phase two
Online food retailers, generally called net supers in Japan, have developed a problem: they are just too successful. Over the past 18 months or so all the big retailers, along with a few minor players, have made serious headway in selling food through the internet and customers have taken to it more than anyone predicted – certainly more than the retailers themselves expected. Luckily, it’s a problem that presents massive opportunity.

The rice ball advantage: Ministop
Aeon is the number one retailer in GMS, supermarkets, drugstores and shopping centres. In contrast, its convenience store chain, Ministop, lags at just number five in the sector, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t unique and improving all the time.

Seibu Shibuya: a giant select shop
As reported last month, Seven & I is in the throes of revamping the core six flagship Sogo-Seibu stores it regards as its city centre jewels, while turning over the rest to SC type operations and local general merchandise retailing. With Seibu Ikebukuro as the model, Seibu Shibuya is getting special treatment, with the aim to become a kind of giant select shop.

Rakuten jumps 25%, planning UK and German entry
Rakuten continues to oversee an ever bigger slice of local retail sales, but it is also expanding in markets such as China, the US and France. It now looks like becoming even more international with plans to enter the UK and German markets and integrate all these sites into one big global marketplace.

Locondo: the Zappos of Japan?
News of big plans for market domination from former bankers may raise the hairs on your neck, but don’t worry, this time it’s just about selling lots of shoes rather than the roof over your head. The level of customer service too is uncharacteristic, suggesting this new portal for shoe shopping might actually work.

Lush: from soap to spas
Lush stores are hard to ignore given the smell emanating from them, and in Japan there are now nearly 150 locations. Britain and spas are not often commonly associated but the UK chain has now launched a new spa business here, as well as expanding into fragrances.

Box: Melvita launches in Japan

Lack of time for personal care
The health and beauty market in Japan is large and mature, but a lack of time to dedicate to personal care means there’s still plenty of room to grow. Consumers have a serious interest in products that improve looks, reduce stress and, often most important, are easy and quick to use.

G-Foot aims to become No. 2 footwear chain
In addition to the other myriad retail businesses under its wing, Aeon has quietly grown a significant chain of footwear stores through both acquisition and in-house development over the past five years. Now called G-Foot, the company plans a major three year expansion and consolidation aimed at challenging ABC Mart and Chiyoda.

Japan’s 30th biggest apparel retailer: H&M
H&M has only been in Japan since September 2008 and has relatively few stores – just 10 – but its sales jumped 60% last year. This means, astonishingly enough, that it is the 30th largest specialty apparel retailer in the country.

News in Brief
Department stores dazzle
Gap to bring Old Navy to Japan?
Apparel makes no money says Seven & I but we are all upper middle class now
Sogo Hachioji to close
More food only department stores
Lacoste launches Lacoste Live
J Front buys into Plaza stores
Retail bankruptcies down 12%
iPads sell suits
Yahoo ties with Familymart in product trial service
Isetan-Mitsukoshi profit jumps 64%
Store smells sell in Japan
Luz Omori opens end of March
Takashimaya Tamagawa SC refresh
Aeon outlet mall
Uniqlo sells 80 million Heat Tech, now plans 10 million chinos
Tobacco: healthy for convenience stores
World in Shibuya 109
Baroque: 100 stores in China
Cecil McBee gets older, targets department stores
Yahoo uses iPhone to offer personalised discount coupons
Uny set to expand Piago supermarkets
Softbank introduces mobile wallet for iPhone
Jins: Japanese sunglasses for Japanese faces

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