December 1 2012

JapanConsuming Headlines: December 2012

Highlights from JapanConsuming monthly report

News and Analysis on Japanese retailing and consumers

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JapanConsuming December 2012
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Focus: Turning crisis into opportunity: Japan’s post earthquake consumer markets
The Japan of today is quite different from the Japan prior to March 2011. The Tohoku earthquake disaster and subsequent debacle over nuclear reactors is the biggest crisis in modern history – and equally important it happened within easy distance of Tokyo where close to a third of the entire population live. Regardless of what really happened up at the Fukushima power station and how the consequences of its handling will effect current and future generations, the way these events have impacted consumer thinking is gradually becoming clear. People are thinking long and hard about what they spend and where they spend it but many are also living for the day, spending more on non-essentials too – with good value uppermost in their minds.

Ponpare Mall: Recruit to challenge Rakuten, Amazon and Yahoo
Recruit will roll out a new online shopping portal next year, taking on the biggest players in the e-commerce market. As well as undercutting competitors with low fees for merchants, it will also lure consumers with generous loyalty points. The new mall will present a challenge to Rakuten, Amazon and Yahoo as well as specialists like Zozotown.

Fast Retailing acquires J Brand
In 2008 Fast Retailing announced a ¥300 billion M&A fund, a necessity given its target of ¥5 trillion in sales by 2020. Last month it spent less than ¥30 billion on its first overseas acquisition since then, a US denim brand called J Brand. The deal may be small but it is important in bolstering Uniqlo’s denim business as it tries to maintain its 25% share of the domestic jeans market.

Buyma tops ¥1 billion in sales
Buyma matches private buyers and sellers of fashion, many of them scouting for bargains overseas. It is no Zozo but its growth to a ¥1 billion business is still a significant achievement for such a niche business – although luxury brands won’t be celebrating.

Isetan-Mitsukoshi plans 150-200 stores
Financial results at Isetan-Mitsukoshi continue to cause concern, with profit forecasts downgraded and only parts of the group showing improvement. Not discouraged, starting next year it will begin to roll out specialty stores in earnest, targeting as many as 200 by 2016. Isetan-Mitsukoshi will also expand own brands. The plan comes just in time as falling sales put pressure on the group once again.

Lawson: making fresh produce work
Lawson continues to expand the number of its stores offering fresh produce. The costs of the venture may still outweigh the benefits, but with more than half of the entire Lawson chain now fitted with dedicated fresh produce displays and a minimum of 15 SKUs, the chain is well on the way to making it work.

Aeon refits older stores with specialty store concepts
Aeon Retail continues to struggle to grow sales at existing stores. Although overall same store sales remain down, it now reports that refits at some of its older stores are beginning to bear fruit. In particular, the rollout of new specialty in-store concepts is having immediate effect in some locations. Encouraged, Aeon now plans to create around 14 different specialty concepts and introduce them into 90% of its chain by 2014.

Cainz, Nishimatsuya Chain looking for unemployed techies
Some retailers are looking to grab experienced R&D specialists as the big electronics manufacturers move to slash jobs. Home centres and other chains looking to develop their own hardware brands will grab who they can. Unfortunately, while thousands will lose their jobs, retailers will only take a handful, but these lucky few will have the chance to boost retailers’ abilities in own brand development.

Kintetsu Harukas: even more shopping for Osaka
Kintetsu will open a vast shopping complex in Osaka in 2014, part of a larger project that includes a 300 metre tall office and hotel tower. Like many station-based department stores it will mix department store retailing with specialty tenants. The south of Osaka does have less department store retailing than the north around Osaka station, but with the city as a whole doubling department store space in less than three years despite a more than 20% decline in sales since 2005, Kintetsu may struggle to meet its targets.

Bouyant import fashion market attracts new players
Distributors of overseas brands have had a fine time of it in recent years. Thanks to a strong yen and an uplift in spending on premium fashions in major cities, importers have enjoyed higher sales and hefty profits. Not surprisingly the import market is attracting new players. New brands coming to Japan include Antonio Berardi, Freemans Sporting Club and Yoga Jeans, with a new deal for Outdoor Products.

Amazon keeps pressure on Zozotown and Rakuten
Amazon Japan has launched a 10% bonus loyalty point scheme on sales of 80 apparel brands available through its site. The promotion came just a couple of weeks after Start Today launched a similar scheme at the same time as matching Amazon’s free delivery service. Both sites are targeting the end of year sales rush, but equally the race is on to grab consumer loyalty. The battle between the two also puts pressure on Rakuten which depends on individual merchants to charge for delivery and set promotions.

Onward seeks growth from new brands
Pressured from World above and TSI below, Onward Holdings is in need of new impetus after five years of declining sales. This year and next it is launching two new store ideas of its own as well as a mass market chain for DKNY and a crop of designer labels including Rochas and Charles & Keith.

Retail Results: Department stores down 2.4% in October

News in Brief
Seiyu to increase store opening pace
American Eagle Outfitters flagship in Ikebukuro
Smartphone sales slowing despite iPhone popularity
¥60 million calendar from Ginza Tanaka
Parco the growth engine
TV Shopping firm Sotsu goes under
Desigual takes over UT Harajuku store
Point buys Trinity
Aoyama goes after women’s market
Seiyu: Piling on the price pressure
Circle K Sunkus aiming overseas
F&A Aqua forecasts record profit
Amazon ties with Nissen
Stylife closes Look!s catalogue
Akasaka Prince development finalised with 11,000 sqm SC
Mitsubishi to redevelop another chunk of Marunouchi
More cosmetics chains
La Perla in Ginza
Coach and Emporio Armani to open in Omotesando
Aeon to open 92,000 sqm SC in Kobe
Belluna sees mobile shopping expansion


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