JapanConsuming Headlines: May 2011

May 04

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Distribution concentration: and then there were Seven
It is a time-honoured tradition for experts and retailers to insist on just how fragmented the distribution sector is in Japan. It is true that there are more than 1 million shops and 350,000 wholesale outlets, and that the largest single retailer by sales, Seven Eleven, accounts for only around 1.5% of total retail sales in the country. But with cross-shareholding and business ties increasing all the time between different retailers, and the biggest trading houses now taking a direct, hands on approach not only in the supply chain but in many parts of the retail sector too, such talk of fragmentation is woefully out of date and disingenuous at best. The reality is that by 2010, a massive proportion of the distribution sector was controlled by just seven major groups: two retailers and five trading companies.

Department stores proving resilient
With Tokyo based stores down 21% and nationwide sales down 14.7%, March 2011 looked as bad for department stores as mid-2009, but unlike 2009, until March, things were actually looking good. Although some saw the downturn as another nail in the department store coffin and indeed poorer stores may never recover, the better chains are demonstrating that today they have the skills to retail their way out of the crisis.

Walmart to open more Seiyu stores
It is close to 10 years since Walmart arrived in Japan through a relatively small stake in Seiyu, at the time the fourth largest retailer. Since then, Walmart has taken full control, while struggling both with criticism from a somewhat xenophobic press, and the mess that Seiyu was already in when acquired. Both problems increasingly seem to have dissipated and the US giant says it is now ready to move forward.
BOX: Japan remains burden on Tesco

Resilience in retailing
The steep drop in turnover at retailers across Japan after March 11 suggested a prolonged freeze in spending by restrained consumers. At least in April, however, there seemed to be signs of optimism and numerous retailers see growth and opportunities ahead. More than a few businesses are less than impressed with the idea of self-restraint too.
Box: Tohoku retailers get back to some semblance of normal

Yamada: looking to gain from post-quake demand
Yamada Denki claims a third of the Japanese consumer electronics market, but as with all its rivals, it faced a bleak 2011 with the end of the eco-points scheme. Despite some damage from the earthquake, the company is now in a good position to take advantage of sales to people looking to rebuild their lives. In addition, it is seeing strong demand for energy efficient products across the whole country.

Parco: takeover test case
Commentators are calling the fight over ownership of the country’s largest fashion building chain the Parco Theatre. The company is in limbo having staved off a proxy fight with the stepping down of its CEO on the demand of the main shareholders. The situation is sending shockwaves around distribution in general and once again threatens to hurt Aeon in the long run.
BOX: Parco still showing its worth in Fukuoka

OLs: Department store visits down by 20% in 4 years
Not all department stores are equal and Isetan is not always number one. This is the result of a survey of OLs from the Kanto region by Sankei Newspaper. Young women are shopping at department stores less and choosing their shopping locations with more care.

A fight for the top spot in online fashion shopping
Last month Amazon raised the bar in online fashion shopping again with free returns for any fashion product as it and rivals like Yahoo and Rakuten fight it out to become the default shopping portal for fashion. Meanwhile Zozotown has announced a new global site in five languages and is scrambling to keep up in terms of customer service.
Softbank ties with Zozotown in China, Zozotown up 54%

ABC Mart now No. 1
ABC Mart is now officially the biggest footwear retailer in the country, knocking Chiyoda off the pedestal it has stood on for more than two decades. While ABC Mart is likely to extend its lead over Chiyoda, a new competitor is emerging and worryingly for ABC Mart, it is owned by Aeon.

News in Brief
JR Hakata City and Hankyu: a strong start
Old Navy launch in Japan confirmed for 2012
Henry Cottons focuses on Japan
Fast Retailing ties with Mitsubishi on Thailand push
Golden Week travel to fall by a third
Renown posts a profit
Noritake: the coffee cup of choice
NTT, Takashimaya slashing loyalty point benefits
Aeon launches first outlet mall
Reebok raided by FTC
Aeon signs The Face Shop, Seiyu bags MNY
Marui opens in Kyoto
Bebe comes to Japan
Kuipo expands Andrea Mabiani
Bershka takes off
Strong sales for Hydrogen
Ermenegildo Zegna sees further growth in Japan
SC sales down 30.8% in Tohoku
Convenience stores surge in March
Zozotown launches cosmetics
CA4LA adds kids line
Ikea opening in Kyushu confirmed for 2012
Forever 21 opens in Lalaport Yokohama
Aeon merges major GMS arms
Cando to expand overseas wholesale business
In the Bag: more stuff to carry around
Mothers spend 15 hours a day with kids
500,000 visit Isetan-Mitsukoshi Osaka 1st day

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