November 2015 News in Brief

Nov 15

Gap to open 11 Old Navy stores this year

Gap Japan continues to press ahead with a rapid roll out of Old Navy stores in Japan. After opening the first in Diver City in July 2012, by the end of September there were 25 Old Navy stores and Gap will have 36 by the end of December. Six new stores were opened last month including two in Aeon malls in Hokkaido and Shikoku, and this month two more will open in Karuizawa and Musashi-Sakai in Tokyo, leaving three more to follow in December. All the stores are larger than 1,000 sqm and come complete with the ever popular children’s combined shopping and play areas.

Tourists spending 40% more this year

Tourists spent ¥1.46 trillion in the first nine months of 2014, up 40% on the year and surpassing the total spend in 2013 of ¥1.41 trillion. Average spending per head rose to ¥158,257 in the July-September quarter, up 13% from a year earlier according to a survey by the Japan Tourist Agency. Chinese spent the most, ¥236,353 on average, and the number of Chinese tourists also increased 70%. Americans spent the next highest, an average of ¥181,896, up 4%. South Koreans spent 9% less, just ¥73,487.

Charlie’s juices launch in Japan

The Better Drinks Company, owners of the Charlie’s lines of fresh juices, has become Asahi’s first overseas acquisition to reach the Japanese mass market. Asahi acquired the New Zealand-based company in 2011 as Japan’s big beverage firms snapped up well marketed overseas brands to diversify their portfolios and add more international reach. A deal has now been done with Seven Eleven, which was looking for new, premium end products like Charlie’s, and after a very successful trial run in some key Tokyo stores, two new flavours have gone on sale nationwide. Reports say they are flying off the shelves. Until now, there have been virtually no not-from-concentrate juice products in Japan, partly due to cost, but also because consumers were believed to prefer more blended flavours, so Charlie’s is a first. The products are being produced in one of just three factories in Japan that Asahi has certified for high quality, non-concentrate products. At present there are two flavours: Kiwi, naturally, and Apple and Mango, a new flavour developed specifically with the Japanese consumer in mind. The Charlie’s brand will be available exclusively in Seven Eleven until mid-2015, but it is likely that Lawson and Familymart will be keen to get their hands on it too given its immediate success and the high consumer interest in the healthy message the brand carries.

Treasure Factory acquires Brand Collect

Successful online recycle shop, Brand Collect (, has been acquired by second hand fashion goods chain, Treasure Factory, in a bid to expand its online operations. Brand Collect provides free parcel pick-up service for people wanting to sell old clothes, jewellery and other fashion items, as well as home visits for people with large collections to sell. It also operates a store in Harajuku which customers can visit directly. There’s no charge for pick-up or even to return products if customers change their minds about the sale after hearing the price, and payment is made once checkers have looked at the product. Treasure Factory plans to maintain Brand Collect’s concentration on higher end items, but wants to expand the range of top end select shop brands it collects too. Treasure Factory operates stores all over Kanto and in Osaka and Hyogo in Kansai. It also provides a database of recycle shops nationwide ( and a rental service for high end fashion and accessory items (

Survey suggests wives should stay at home

A recent survey run by Meiji Yasuda Institute of Life and Wellness asked 3,616 people between 20-50 what they thought about women working. 39.3% of men and 43% of women thought that husbands should work and wives stay at home. Even among unmarried respondents, 34.2% of bachelors and 37.9% of bachelorettes agreed that wives should stay at home while their husbands worked. The figures jumped to 42.5% and 46.1% for married men and women respectively. There was no indication of just how the questions were phrased, and Meiji was keen to point out that the result was indeed “unexpected”. Although it does point to enduring traditional attitudes, most importantly the result demonstrates just how little progress Japan has made in altering female thinking towards careers even now.

Sanrio launches first original Mister Men character

Sanrio, which bought rights to the British Mister Men series in 2011, launched its first original character in October. Little Miss Hug is a new character that will appear on a variety of Sanrio gift and stationery items, hoping to follow her much older counterpart, Hello Kitty, to world fame. The new character has deliberate similarities to Hello Kitty, including both the same red hair ribbon and no nose, and the two will appear together in some product lines. Sanrio is today a major retailer in its own right, with 200 stores nationwide along with an online store all feeding a multitude of fans. The company is hoping the character will be generating in the region of ¥5 billion a year by 2016.

Takashimaya to open in Thailand

Takashimaya has announced its first department store in Thailand, with an opening date of 2017. The new store will be the anchor tenant in a new Bangkok shopping mall, alongside a luxury hotel and apartment complex. The development is a joint venture, 51% owned by Takashimaya Singapore, itself run by Takashimaya subsidiary Toshin Kaihatsu, and the remainder by a local development company linked to CP Group. The store will be called simply, Siam Takashimaya. It will have 36,000 sqm over eight floors and sit in an 80,000 sqm SC. The same development will feature two new luxury condominium towers, one stretching up 50 floors and the other 70.

Tokyu to open 30,000 sqm Kawasaki SC in 2016

Tokyo Corp. has struck ground on a new SC in Kawasaki that will open in 2016. The 30,000 sqm mall will be on ground previously used for Kawasaki race course, just two minutes from Minatocho station, and be part of a shopping hub for the local area that includes Yamada Denki. The location is also just minutes from the Daichi Keihin freeway and Kawasaki Stadium, and 15 minutes walk from Kawasaki Station. The SC will be one of Tokyu’s more premium SCs along the lines of Tama Plaza Terrace mixing supermarkets, upscale prepared foods, fashion, home and neighbourhood services.

New SC to be test bed for Seven & I specialty stores

A new large scale 37,000 sqm SC will open in Kawasaki 22 November in the popular residential area of Musashi Kosugi in Kawasaki. Operated by Seven & I the Grandtree SC will host a number of group chains including Ito-Yokado, Loft, FrancFranc, Tower Records, and Akachan Honpo among the 160 tenants. However, also included will be a host of new small format store ideas from Seven & I. A key tenant will be a store called Seibu Sogo, a new small format store offering apparel, accessories, footwear and gifts. The theme of the store is bringing the best of Sogo and Seibu department stores to local areas. Plans are also for it to act as a collection point for online orders from the most popular department store branches like Sogo Yokohama and Seibu Shibuya – customers will be able to shop from these stores through large online touch screens inside the store too, a service called ‘Live Shopping Service’. As well as group retailers, Seven & I will launch numerous apparel stores for private brands sold within Ito-Yokado such as Galloria, Kent and Business Expert. Also on the third floor will be another Ito-Yokado offshoot called Home & Works, a new chain selling household and interior goods from Ito-Yokado, but in a more upscale store design. Finally on the fourth floor, Goodday Park will be a new casual apparel chain for all the family produced by Ito-Yokado’s apparel team.

Poiray relaunches in Japan and France

French jewellery brand Poiray is being relaunched in Japan this year simultaneously with a rollout of new stores in France. Launched in 1975, Poiray was bought by AMS Industries recently, and new investment will mean six new stores in the Paris area over the next year. At the same time, a new Japanese subsidiary was set up in June, headed up by former director of Damiani, Masashi Futaba, which will look to establish stand alone stores in Tokyo and Osaka next year. France and Japan will remain the main focus for store investment until sales are firmly established in these markets. For 20 years Poiray was sold in Japan through Sanki Shoji with a string of stand alone stores and department store corners, but with the brand’s decline, the business has shrunk to just four outlets. As well as its own stores, Poiray will work to expand wholesale sales to around 30 doors over the next year. Poiray plans new sub-brands and collaboration collections to broaden its appeal and widen its range; until now the bulk of its sales have been rings, but it will increase production of earrings and bracelets. Japan only collaborations are also planned.

Seven Eleven to revamp takeaway coffee offer

A year and a half since introducing ready to pour coffee machines throughout its chain, Seven Eleven implemented a refresh of the product line last month. The ‘counter coffee’ selling from as little as ¥100 a cup for the basic product has proven massively popular, and caused something of a backlash against coffee chains like Starbucks, perhaps galvanising Sazaby League to sell its stake. Seven Eleven sold more than 600 million cups in the first year alone and a further 340 million in 1H2014. All the other major convenience store chains have, naturally, introduced their own versions as a result, so Seven Eleven is keen to stay ahead of the game. It will introduce new types of coffee bean to improve flavour and change its roasting techniques. Prices will stay fixed. The company says it fully expects sales of the product to continue to grow strongly. Last month, Lawson introduced a new, lower priced line of instant coffees to match Seven Eleven and added teas as well. Familymart has added lattes and cocoa – and even ‘cocoa lattes’ – to its lines and introduced new ranges of desserts sold alongside the coffees.

Machida reborn

Machida is a key shopping and entertainment hub for western Tokyo and northern Kanagawa, a nexus of railways and major roads as well as being a large and popular residential area in itself. It looks, however, tired and a little drab, especially around the station. Now Mitsui, Mitsubishi and Tokyo Gas have come together with plans to rebuild the entire station area on the east side and transform it into, not only a residential and shopping hub, but also a new commercial centre, making it a key location for retailers. The project parallels a similar initiative at Shinagawa Station and is being put together as part of the wider effort to make Japan more competitive, and convince more global businesses to make Tokyo their Asian headquarters in time for the Olympics. The three firms plan to create a new office, hotel and commercial centre on the east side of Machida Station, including two skyscrapers of 36 and 31 floors, comprising some 300,000 sqm. All the new towers will be linked by an airbridge to make it easier to traverse the new centre. At the core of this will be a shopping mall and entertainment area. Construction will start in 2015 and complete in 2019.

Locondo attracts more investment

Online footwear and fashion store Locondo raised ¥500 million in new funding from Jafco last month. It will use the funds to increase logistics capabilities as it expands, and move to larger office space. Locondo was launched in 2010, initially as a footwear store but has since shifted to a mall model, avoiding taking stock of inventory. This has made it easier to acquire new brands. It now claims some 600,000 members of which 40% buy once a year or more. Transaction values reached ¥5 billion in FY2013. Locondo says it plans to expand into sportswear and home interiors shortly.

Nishi Nippon expands Incube variety chain

Railway firm Nishi Nippon Rail (Nishitetsu) continues to roll out its variety store chain Incube. A competitor to J-Front’s Plaza and Hands Select, Tokyu Hands’ small format store, Incube sells a mix of health, beauty, food, stationery and household goods in a strikingly designed, flexible format suited to station buildings and suburban SCs alike. The planned expansion provides a promising new sales channel for overseas brands of cosmetics, candy, household goods, stationery and any other product that fits with the store’s theme of ‘fun daily necessities’. Last month alone Nishitetsu opened four stores bringing the total to 11 with plans for rapid expansion from next year. Until recently all the stores were concentrated within Nishitetsu’s home base of Kyushu, but among the stores opened last month were the first Kansai store in Aeon’s Kyoto Katsuragawa SC, and the first in Kanto, within Marui Kichijoji. Both these stores use the new smaller format model designed for station SCs, where Nishitetsu expects the bulk of new stores to open in the next year. Store sizes vary from around 250 sqm to 1,000 sqm.

Department stores roll out more small format ideas

Hankyu Hanshin opened a new store for its fashion chain Doubleday in Aeon’s new Kyoto mall last month and will open another in Grandtree Musashi in Kawasaki this month, bringing the total to 15. Doubleday is a home interiors store, one of the new generation of home chains that is exploiting the growing interest in home fashion in Japan. Operated by subsidiary Eki Retail Service Hankyu Hanshin, the store concept is ‘Retrofusion’, a mix of vintage style furniture and home accessories and modern contemporary designs, including some antique British furniture alongside the latest kitchen gadgets. Meanwhile Odakyu opened Desk My Style within the Odakyu Sagamiono Station Square SC. Desk My Style offers stationery and desk accessories (a wide definition that includes cuddly toys, 30 different designs of masking tape, snacks as well as plants in test tubes) for men and women that first opened inside Odakyu Shinjuku in April. The new 70 sqm store is the third in the chain and sells 600 SKUs.

Samsonite brings Hartmann to Japan

Samsonite Japan opened the first Japanese store for its Hartmann brand of luggage late last month. Located within the new Kirarito Ginza SC, the Hartmann store is just the second shop globally – the other is in New York. Hartmann was established in 1877 and uses its heritage to promote its craftsmanship, high quality and luxury positioning. Samsonite acquired Hartmann in 2012 and has been working on updating the collection and branding under the tag line ‘Inspired Luxury’. Samsonite has raided the Hartmann archives, for example creating a tweed and leather collection, while using its own production skills and quality parts to upgrade durability. It has also widened the range to include briefcases and small accessories, as well as introducing modern materials such as polycarbonite. Bags will sell for around ¥100,000 and luggage between ¥60,000-200,000.

ABC Mart forges ahead with 15% growth in 1H2014

ABC Mart continues to pull ahead of competitors Chiyoda and G-Foot, with another solid six months. Sales rose 15.1% to ¥108 billion and operating profit jumped 23.5% to ¥23.4 billion. As well as new stores, ABC Mart said sales of running shoes and fashion sneakers helped push up sales. It is also seeing higher ticket children’s casual shoes selling well. ABC opened 24 stores in 1H, closed four, bringing the total to 769, while also expanding space at 10 other stores. Overseas it continues to expand with 10 new stores in South Korea bringing the total to 154. It now also has four stores in the US and 27 in Taiwan. It expects year end sales of ¥213 billion and operating profit of ¥40 billion.

Lalaport confirms Tachikawa opening in late 2015

Mitsui has confirmed the opening of its latest large scale Lalaport SC in Tachikawa next Autumn. Featuring 240 tenants in a 60,000 sqm space, the SC will be two stops on the monorail from Tachikawa Station as well as within easy access by car from the Chuo Expressway. This will be the first Lalaport in Western Tokyo and only the second in Tokyo after Urban Dock Lalaport in Toyosu. Lalaport will target families, couples and active seniors with a mix of fashion, food and entertainment under the concept ‘Garden Tachikawa’, developer parlance for lots of shopping and very little garden, although it is close to Showa Memorial Park and various sports facilities.

Tiffany opens first stand alone store in five years

Tiffany & Company Japan unveiled a stand alone store in Shinjuku 20 October, its first in five years, replacing the flagship lost when Isetan-Mitsukoshi closed its annex opposite Isetan in 2012. Tiffany is also present in Isetan itself, Takashimaya, and a relatively new 300 sqm store inside Odakyu which opened in Spring 2012. The dazzling 330 sqm corner store over three floors comes with Tiffany-blue lighting embedded in the facade. The first floor displays iconic Tiffany jewellery as well as bags and accessories, the second floor high end diamond jewellery with tables for customers to sit and view selected pieces as well as a private sales room, with a bridal salon on the third floor.

Four new stores for Charles & Keith

This Autumn, Onward Holdings will open four stores for Charles & Keith, the Singapore footwear and bag retailer it signed a franchise with in Spring 2013. Three of the four are in Aeon malls including one in Aeon Kyoto Katsuragawa and Aeon Okayama in December. The four new stores will bring the total to 12. Onward says it will accelerate expansion of the chain from 2015.