JapanConsuming Headlines: November 2012

Nov 04

Focus: Sales at leading shopping centre jump 4.6% in 2011
2011 was a strong year for the largest shopping centres in Japan. The top 100 enjoyed buoyant trading up 4.6% thanks to rising spending on fashions, food and lifestyle goods – despite the drop of 15% in sales at Narita as visitors stayed away from Japan. Although sales for all 3,090 SCs were estimated to have fallen 1.3% on a like for like basis, this was still a reasonable result from a difficult start. Several important new SCs came online during the year, and in the next year further investment suggests a bright future for urban station and suburban neighbourhood SCs, although with distinct signs of excessive capacity in some city centres.

Seiyu, Yaoko: winning with EDLP
Most food chains had a poor first half with sales and profits falling. Unprecedented levels of price competition are only half the story. Supermarkets have been developing own brands for years, but while most still don’t make money or deliver the prices and types of products consumers want, others are managing very well indeed.

Urban Outfitters ties with World
Urban Outfitters has flirted with Japan for years, first negotiating with trading firms and other possible partners, and then planning direct investment. In the end it has decided the first step should be a joint venture with World for its Free People chain.

Seven Net Shopping shows up at TGC
Seven & I has diverse ambitions for its online operations. From September, it began an online and store marketing collaboration with Tokyo Girls Collection, selling own brand and other items through its website and live events.

Fast Retailing: investors doubtful as latest results fall short of forecasts
Fast Retailing’s annual results were announced in early October. Overall it was a better year than FY2010. The company claims it is moving in the right direction internationally but there are signs that the overly basic business model might not work quite as well there as it did at home. Meanwhile analysts are far less impressed with Heat Tech than the company itself.

Daimaru gets it right at Tokyo Station
At Tokyo Station, Daimaru took the chance to rethink the approach to department store retailing from scratch and has come up with something much better: a space that comfortably blends luxury with popular specialty chains in a new form of premium station building.

Tommy Bahama to open in Japan amid fashion and luxury cafe boom
Tommy Bahama has decided to launch in Japan with a hybrid fashion store and cafe-restaurant. Japanese love cafes, and the more stylish the better. Not content with Starbucks and Tully’s, more urbanites are flocking to the higher end offerings from fashion retailers and luxury accessory and food brands. The cafes make money but also help underpin, and communicate, what a brand is about.

Village Vanguard past its peak?
Japan’s latest iteration of a variety store, Village Vanguard, grew rapidly over the past few years, but its light may now be dimming. Increased competition from a variety of sources and consumers’ reluctance to spend on, well, junk, means the downturn in results last year is set to worsen.

Yahoo and Askul launch online food supermarket
Yahoo has taken a majority stake in Askul to quickly build logistics capability in the hope of catching up with Amazon and Rakuten. Progress will be slow but it has already launched an online supermarket which could take a significant share in what remains a diffracted market.

Earthquakes and nuclear fallout forcing consumption changes
Japan is one of the most earthquake prone countries in the world, but last year’s disaster was still a huge shock for many, not least because of the government’s dreadful response. Things are now more or less back to normal, but many consumers report that they have made serious and permanent changes to their consumption behaviour.

Xebio and Alpen battle it out in sports
Xebio is Japan’s second largest sports goods retailer, operating seven different chains. It is fast catching up with Alpen, its main rival, and over the next two years hopes to overtake the long time leader. Alpen is gearing up again with plans for 200 more stores, but with Xebio’s wider range of retail interests and far higher profitability, Alpen will struggle to stay ahead.

TSI to close 300 stores but forecasts growth of 60% by 2015
TSI is in the midst of a major restructuring as it grapples with merging the disparate divisions of Sanei International and Tokyo Style. The good news is that management is using the merger as an opportunity to slay sacred cows, cutting brands that no longer work and stores that never have. This is not a company in decline, however, with major investment in new brands including active scouting for new international partners.

Start Today to offer free shipping, downgrades forecasts
Start Today has been fighting off bad news in recent weeks as investors dump the stock following downgraded forecasts and the threat from Amazon’s free shipping and unconditional returns. In a bold about face, Zozotown began offering free shipping on all purchases from November 1. Growth forecasts may have to be upgraded again.

Itoya ties with Tullys, United Arrows
Itoya is the most prominent high end stationery specialty chain in Japan and a significant sales route for imported high end stationery brands. It is, however, small. Following a tie-up with United Arrows that launched last year, the chain has opened a second joint store, this time with Tully’s Coffee. The aim is to double the chain’s size over the medium term.

News in Brief
Thigh Marketing
Tiger still swamped with customers and plans to expand
Aeon grabs Carrefour’s Malaysian interests
Department stores down 0.2% in September but city stores up
Childrenswear market up 3.8% in 2012
Fast Retailing opens Princesse Tam.Tam store in Japan
Seibu opens in Ito-Yokado, expands owns brands
Eternal to distribute Vicomte A in Japan
Narita the men’s retailer
Descente signs UK’s Inov-8
Gap Japan opens online store
Itochu Shoji signs Havaianas
Sumitomo opens cosmetics specialty store
Aucfan provides Asia wide price comparisons
L’Oreal to rollout Kiehl’s nationwide
Amazon for families and their homes
Virtual changing rooms taking off
Itochu to expand Ungaro licensing
Aeon to reopen China operations in November
Uny: tablet based ordering for seniors
Convenience stores turn to in-store cafes for additional income
Valor heading to northern prefectures
Cecile: turning station walls into catalogues

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