Following J Front’s investment, Senshukai is working hard to realign itself as an omnichannel retailer. With close to 80% of sales coming from online, and a legacy supply chain reliant on wholesalers, this is a challenge, but it is now launching new brands designed for both store roll out and online sales, all with direct sourcing. The first is Belle Maison Days.
Senshukai has just unveiled a new brand called Belle Maison Days that it hopes will become a major source of growth in the next decade. Following J Front’s 22% stake in Senshukai earlier this year, Belle Maison Days is also expected to feature strongly in Daimaru-Matsuzakaya stores, making Belle Maison a quasi private brand for the group. Sales for the new brand are forecast at ¥25 billion in FY2016, rising to ¥40 billion through FY2018.
At the launch, Belle Maison Days mixes around 400 SKUs in accessories and apparel, but home and apparel will be greatly expanded over the next year, with 800 SKUs expected. Merchandise will be split 50% apparel & accessories and 50% home.
The brand is meant to be a simpler, more basic range of daily goods and apparel compared to the main Belle Maison brand. Senshukai sees demand for quality, well-designed basics in a market of “pressured households”, i.e. those facing both wage declines and inflation, and wanting a solid level of quality at reasonable prices. The branding also has a modern and clean look, meant to appeal to younger households in their 30s.
In many ways Belle Maison Days is similar to Muji, albeit more colourful, with the same simple aesthetic but prices of ¥2,000-3,000 for basic apparel. As the new brand takes off, Belle Maison itself is expected to move slightly more upmarket, in line with its new role as a private brand within Daimaru-Matsuzakaya, and focusing on the over 45s.
To improve profitability and keep prices competitive, Senshukai has created a direct sourcing network for the brand. Until now, Senshukai has largely relied on sale or return from wholesaler-manufacturers which, while offering less risk, also means higher prices, making its merchandise less competitive with SPA (vertically integrated) retailers. With help from trading firms, Senshukai is sourcing Belle Maison Days directly, making it its first SPA brand.
As well as the direct sourcing, what makes Belle Maison Days interesting is that it has been designed as a retail brand as much as an online/catalogue business. Senshukai will open distinct stores for Belle Maison Days, planning as many as 20 stores in shopping centres, particularly those anchored by Aeon and Ito-Yokado GMS, as well as other stores inside Daimaru-Matsuzakaya and possibly some suburban Parco locations – pop-up stores are planned within Daimaru-Matsuzakaya this Winter and next Spring.
Senshukai has long had a retail arm but this move to build brands designed from scratch for both store and online matches the strategy of many retailers including J Front itself, and Senshukai is proving far away the most progressive among the old catalogue retailers. Currently 78% of Senshukai’s sales come from online of which 25% are from mobiles.
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