JapanConsuming Headlines: April 2013

Apr 03
JC1304

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Focus: Aeon’s acquisition of Daiei set to change food distribution for good
Aeon has launched a tender offer for Daiei shares and will also acquire Marubeni’s stake with the aim to turn Daiei into a full subsidiary by July. Aeon has wanted to buy Daiei for many years so the news is hardly unexpected, but it is still significant in the food and FMCG sector and sent shockwaves around the industry. In one way, this is takeover by stealth, with Aeon waiting patiently for the past 10 years, after the government rebuffed its efforts to acquire Daiei back in 2004. The deal will spur further consolidation in the food sector and Aeon’s largest rivals will be plotting strategies to maintain their position now that the gorilla in the market has finally become clearly visible.

Cross Company: tripling sales
Cross Company will launch two new chains this year and plans another new acquisition, all with the aim to triple sales in the five years through FY2014 and become the third largest specialty apparel retailer. With growth of several thousand percent in a decade, its track record suggests it will meet its targets.

Sports market: more active, more glamorous
As in other key consumer categories, the sports market had a good year in 2012 and looks set for more growth after several years of contraction. Important areas of investment include women’s sports and the premium market.

Isetan reopens Shinjuku, plans overhaul at JR West Osaka store
Having reopened its best store, Isetan Shinjuku, Isetan-Mitsukoshi will now work with JR West to overhaul its worst, JR Osaka Isetan-Mitsukoshi, turning over space to tenants. The Shinjuku store looks to be yet another example of innovation, but the same magic is desparately needed in Osaka.

Geek Brands: Old Fashioned hankies
There are more single or childless men in their 30s and 40s than ever before. Less pressured than previous generations into working all hours for the company good, the affluent and well paid among them have the time and money to indulge their most esoteric whims, whether in hobbies or consumer goods. A host of new brands and stores have emerged to serve them from sports to footwear. The latest is H Tokyo, a tiny store that is devoted entirely to the design and sale of men’s handkerchiefs – at as much as ¥4,000 a pop.

Citizens of Humanity sets up Japanese subsidiary
Citizens of Humanity has at last found a safe haven in Japan: it has set up its own subsidiary after years of dealing with court cases and bankrupt distributors. Its first task will be to restore the brand’s equity and appeal.

Isetan-Mitsukoshi restructures
Isetan-Mitsukoshi has largely completed the politically tricky business of integrating Isetan and Mitsukoshi businesses and with this out of the way, from 1 April created several new centralised divisions charged with producing new growth and higher profits.

Women’s lot: not so happy at home
Two recent reports paint a mixed picture of women’s roles in Japan. Housewives continue to control household spending decisions, often planning and purchasing products for their male partners, but for those wanting careers Japan has been branded as the worst place in the developed world to be a woman. Birth and marriage rates continue to decline because many women still have to choose either marriage and children or a career.

Department stores to expand lifestyle merchandise
Department stores are putting more effort and store investment into the ‘other’ category: lifestyle and interior goods. While some key stores have improved their fashion and food floors, boosting footfall and sales in these areas, lifestyle goods have floundered, taking less than 20% of total sales overall last year. Lifestyle ranges provide opportunities for chain based branding, merchandise differentiation and high gross margins.

World targets GMS chains
Until now World has focused on revitalising its department store brands while rapidly expanding its SPA retail chains in shopping centres. It is now going after the GMS business, and could even turn out to be the saviour of some GMS chains which have struggled for years to stop apparel sales falling.

Consumers: less cash for the fun stuff
According to household accounts data, consumers are spending – unusual for winter months in recent years. While this keeps the government happy, independent economists see the trend as short term, a result of consumers anticipating increases in prices. Worse, working households have very little wiggle room, having seen their fixed monthly expenses rise over the past 10 years while incomes have fallen. Some companies have recently raised salaries and dished out special bonuses, but there needs to be a lot more corporate generosity towards employees if Japan is to avoid a slump next year.

Shopping Centre sales up 2.7% in 2012
2012 was a solid year for shopping centres, with strong overall growth and even an uptick in comparative sales. 2013 will see a jump in the number of new SCs, although the amount of actual new space will still be lower than the peak reached in 2007 as developers focus on smaller city shopping facilities for both old and young.

Itochu signs New York brand The Row
Itochu has signed luxury brand The Row on behalf of subsidiary Coronet as part of plans to beef up Coronet’s luxury portfolio. Its own licensed luxury business is benefiting from the upswing in consumer demand too.

News in Brief
Gap to open 20 Old Navy stores this year, 9 this Spring
Free People pop up store to open this month
Nissen uses smartphone apps to extend catalogue life
Food preparation businesses declining
Rakuten pulls out of Indonesia
Hanshin Umeda to be rebuilt by 2023
GU app gets 2 million downloads
Shiseido changes CEO as results worsen
Recruit launches Rakuten rival, ties with Brands for Friends
Women spend ¥63,000 on fashions a year
Japanese Luxury Bag brand debuts
Middle aged spending more than young online
Start Today up 14.6% in February
Ships launches new womenswear store
Felissimo relaunches Kraso catalogue
Aeon opens Laura Ashley London in Ginza
2012 electronics market dips below ¥8 trillion
DoClasse launches NEW premium line
Furla introduces new concept at Aoyama store
Uniqlo rebrands summer underwear lines
Baroque Japan launches second SC concept chain
Gucci opens childrenswear store in Sendai
J Front appoints new CEO

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