JapanConsuming Headlines: June 2011

Jun 02

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Focus: Fashion demand: simple and casual
Preference for casual fashions over smarter high end apparel is a clear trend in Japan as much as any other advanced market. What is different is the extent to which Japanese tastes have shifted and why. With less and less inclination to follow the dictates of fashion authorities, whether magazines or brands, and more confidence in their own tastes and styles, the importance of the brand name alone has lessened. All things are relative, however, and the likes of Burberry and Coach remain forefront in consumer’s minds when choosing upscale clothing and accessories. Unfortunately for Louis Vuitton, among younger women respondents to a survey in Tokyo at least, it no longer ranks even in the top five.

Station building investment continues
Stations have long been an obvious place for shopping centres given their massive footfall from the throngs of commuters. Their emergence as fashion destinations in their own right has been a feature of new developments in the last 10 years, both in city centres and at major suburban terminals in the main cities of Tokyo and Osaka. Now, as some department stores fight back, station malls too are having to work harder for shoppers, although the new premium suburban locations are enjoying captive markets.

H2O Retailing: 30% growth in 3 years
H2O Retailing’s recent higher profits and a clutch of new stores are the result of a 10 year plan laid down in 2004 to rebuild the Osaka-based retail group. With just four years left of the plan, H2O looks set to realise most of its goals but the result will mean even greater reliance on the flagship locations in Umeda.

Isetan-Mitsukoshi profit jumps 160%

Chat through fashion: Styling networks
Creating your own fashion styles and looks online and sharing them with friends is an increasingly popular hobby, and it is helping generate word of mouth sales for fashion brands. United Arrows has just launched its own site, and Itochu has invested in another, providing a headache for global leader Shopstyle.

Anya Hindmarch and APC: quiet growth for smaller brands
Japan has long been known as a paradise market for top luxury brands and designers and the success of smaller brands often gets forgotten in the midst of all that glitzy glamour. Many other brands and retailers working through distributors continue to grow and expand in the face of economic uncertainty. Two recent examples are Anya Hindmarch and APC.

Apparel firms hopeful for recovery
The leading listed apparel firms are as optimistic as retailers about the limited extent of the damage to trade from the events of 11 March. After a tough decade of restructuring, culling brands and investing in hoped for sources of growth, most clothiers are looking forward to the year ahead.

Samantha Thavasa: the Japanese Western brand
After two years of stalling sales and a massive drop in profits, Japan’s only answer to Western bag brands, Samantha Thavasa, is growing again. New sales follow restructuring of the company to better manage its new larger scale, the first round of international expansion and a major emphasis on benchmarking to focus on key issues.

Dena & Rakuten: Online shops, and shops online
Online shopping is the fastest growing of any retail sector, and was the quickest to pick up following the March disaster. Now one major online retailer is tying with retail stores to sell product in the high street, while more and more major retailers are setting up shops in the major online portals.

Rakuten, Yahoo report rapid upswings in April

Takashimaya looking overseas for growth
Takashimaya remains Japan’s largest, un-merged department store operation, both in terms of total turnover and store numbers. Having failed to convince H2O to join its group, it remains an isolated and patchy mix of operations, some excellent, some dreadful, with just the one core strategy being yet more volume expansion. Since Japan is saturated, the only option is expansion overseas. The good news is that it will rely on its excellent subsidiary SC developer, Toshin Kaihatsu, to implement this.

Osaka enjoys a Tokyo Golden Week
With the opening of the new Isetan-Mitsukoshi at JR Osaka Station – strongly supported by special train timetables arranged by JR to get distant customers to the city centre during the holiday – Osaka enjoyed a particularly good Golden Week this year. But is this sustainable?

Familymart planning major China expansion
Familymart is planning to expand its operations in China from the current 600 stores in three cities to no less than 8,000 stores in 24 cities by 2020. It has enlisted the help of its parent Itochu and partners Dangxin Group to run the operation in China, beginning this year with a planned 319 new outlets. Many problems remain, however, not least that the Chinese market is not nearly as easy as the one at home.

Smart phones bolster mobile market
Strong sales of smart phones are keeping the mobile phone market alive. One survey suggests that by 2016 around half of all phones will be smart phones, of which half will be running Google’s Android OS. Companies need to work harder to sell software, however, with half of current users not having paid for a single application on their phones.

News in Brief
World cosies up to developers
Tourist sales fall again at department stores
Tokyo Style buys Rose Bud
Shinjuku Alcott to close
Aeon: E-Money for energy saving
Ito-Yokado launches Net Super near Fukushima power plant
Chelsea Japan sales hit ¥29.2 billion
Melvita: the second best thing for the environment
Balmain in Ginza
Rakuten’s Mikitani takes on the establishment again
Lawson plans a shift away from the norm
Lawson to Merge Entermedia with HMV Japan
Success for jewellery chain Stone Market
Aoyama in Ito-Yokado
More cleaning house for Itochu
Passport aims for ¥18 billion in sales
1 in 4 families give their kids mobile phones
Honeys adds menswear but only in China
Urban Research expands
Aeon offers Housekeeping Services
Xebio up 4%
Summer holidays return to department stores
Marubeni expands underwear sales in China
Chiyoda to cut 265 stores
Rakuten Bolstering Its Ticket Sales Business

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