JapanConsuming Headlines: October 2011

Oct 05

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Shopping centres: only the best are good enough
Shopping centres stormed ahead of department stores and GMS chains from the late 1990s and now dominate retailing as never before, accounting for some 20% of all retail sales. However, both development and sales hit a wall in 2008 as consumption fell and investment in new SCs peaked. After two tough years, 2010 was still hard but overall the results were much improved, notably for the top 100 properties. Improved consumer spending has helped – with 2011 so far proving the best year since 2007 – but the growing power of the top mall operators, making greater efforts to manage tenants more aggressively and promoting malls through events and promotions, is further widening the gap between the best and the rest. Tenants will need to choose locations ever more carefully.

Itochu buys 30% of Renown’s Chinese shareholder
Itochu continues to develop its interests in the Chinese apparel market. It took a 28% stake in China’s leading apparel maker Shanshan Group for ¥10 billion in 2009 and has now acquired a stake in Shandong Ruyi, the company that now controls Renown. For ¥15 billion it will own 30% of the Chinese manufacturer and retailer, and will also attach two directors to the company. The investments will feed Itochu’s sales network worldwide but Itochu also hopes the move will make it a major player in brand distribution and retailing in China in much the same way it is in Japan.

World buys Fashionwalker
World has been the most progressive of the old apparel wholesale-manufacturer conglomerates since delisting through an MBO in 2005. Having switched to a retail-led operation, it is now looking to become a leader in e-commerce, announcing the acquisition of fashionwalker.com.

Uniqlo: 100 million pieces of Heat-Tech
The Fast Retailing PR department continues to keep column inches filled in Japanese dailies. Among the many recent announcements comes the significant news that it plans to open Uniqlo stores in Australia within two years, and the confirmation of its latest, humongous sales targets for the winter season. There are fears that it is creating a bubble that must surely burst.

Box: How much thermal underwear can the market bear?

Daiei launches new Home Fashions own brand
Daiei continues its slow recovery under the tutelage of owners Marubeni and Aeon. While Aeon now supplies about a third of retailer developed brands in its stores, Daiei remains largely independent. Last month it launched Livnee, a new range of interior goods designed to differentiate its stores from Aeon and others, as well as to offer opportunities to make the most of refurbishing in non-food departments.

BOX: New discount Daiei format emerges

Buying online is easy – perhaps too easy?
Imagine walking down the street and seeing a girl wearing the perfect pair of shoes. Want to know which brand they are and where to buy them? Easy. Just snap a picture and Dentsu will take you to an online store or, maybe soon, even direct you to a nearby shop.

Yamada Denki and Edion to expand number of small affiliate stores
Yamada Denki engineered something of a coup when it began converting so-called keiretsu stores from their original contracts with major electronics manufacturers to become affiliates with Yamada Denki instead. It began this process quietly, but it has proved a huge success. It now plans to take the move much further. Edion is getting in on the idea too with other chains likely to follow.

Surging web sales for fashion retailers
Online sales now make up 10% of group turnover for some fashion retailers, a remarkable shift from just three years ago when few even had their own web store. Now retailers not only have their own e-commerce operations, but are opening stores on Amazon, Rakuten and Zozotown, and are widening their customer base through Facebook and other SNS services.

Lawson to set up joint venture in India
The Japanese press have been all over the news that Lawson is to enter the Indian market. In reality, the company itself admits that a deal is still several months away, but it has leaked that it is in negotiations with India’s largest retailer, Future Group. If the deal happens, Lawson will gain status as a first mover, but India remains a difficult market for overseas firms to succeed in and it could be politically difficult for convenience stores.

Nihonbashi: the next Marunouchi?
Mitsubishi Estate has spent the last ten years successfully transforming the dreary grey office district of Marunouchi into a sought after shopping and entertainment district, host to many top international brands and linked to Bond Street and 5th Avenue (see JC1109). Its success has spawned action by JR East, itself investing lavishly in making Tokyo Station an entertainment and shopping zone for commuters, as well as envy from Mitsui over in Nihonbashi. Mitsui has now teamed up with Takashimaya to make a real go of luring lucrative shopping to the old finance district through investment in vast new buildings.
Box: Mitsubishi Estate outlines new medium term plan

Collaborations: Uniqlo and Undercover
Collaborations between designers, retailers and other brands have always been popular. For the retailers it usually means some useful street cred, while designers get cash and publicity. Uniqlo, having worked with Jil Sander, has announced a new collaboration with Undercover, while United Arrows is working with Gap and Muji with Anglobal.

Doclasse: how to target the over 40s
The middle aged market for fashion is often barely noticed when so much of the action seems to be in selling to the under 40s. While some brands focus squarely on this market they are often ageing and tired and it is rare to find new ventures that think over 40s fashions is worth a punt. Which leaves a huge opportunity for those that do. One such company is Doclasse which has built a ¥5 billion a year business in just four years.

Giordano launches third attempt on Japan through Wego
Uniqlo may have been a customer in its early years but Giordano has never found a way to crack Japan. After one failed joint venture and one attempt to invest directly in the market, it has now signed a deal with Wego – a used clothing retailer.

Isetan-Mitsukoshi adds more directly managed retail space
Normally when a luxury brand closes a concession, department stores scramble to fill it with another top name in order to ensure footfall doesn’t drop. But with many stores now looking to offer something unique as an alternative way to bring in traffic, this is no longer a given. Buyers are increasingly taking control of retailing at department stores and Isetan-Mitsukoshi is leading the way.

News in Brief
Robeks Juice opens in Japan
Tokyo Style to acquire Arpege
FrancFranc launches mini station store format
Major new shopping mall for Sagami Ono in 2013
Rakuten to buy UK firm play.com
Pandora opens in Japan
Right On ties with Korean band
Chiba station mall plans unveiled
Kamei signs Hunter Boots for Japan market
Jazzdream: Japan’s biggest outlet mall
JR spruces up Yurakucho station for Lumine launch
Takashimaya sells Jessica Simpson brand, looks for more
Nissen ties with Venus Veil in China
Lalaport Shinmisato to expand with Forever 21
Hankyu Hakata exceeds targets
Ugg to open first Kansai store
Yamada Denki offering Lowest-Price Guarantee online
G-Star Raw in Ginza
Kojima opens on Rakuten
Beams adds sports store
Rugged Factory flagship opens in Shibuya
Aeon to change name on 15 SCs
More pop up stores for overseas brands
Tenmaya to close Hiroshima branch
Sogo-Seibu: going after the over 60s
Samantha Thavasa to boost jewellery business
Sogo Seibu getting into crocodile bags

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