December 2015 Highlights

Dec 07

FOCUS: Convenience Stores to dominate retail industry?
The rise and rise of convenience store retailing is one of the most significant stories in Japanese business over the past 30 years. While few would fail to admire the skill with which the leading chains have grown, and their efficiency and profitability as retailers, for the majority of companies outside the food sector, this was of only academic interest. Until today that is. Having built up a huge store coverage, backed by hyper-efficient just-in-time logistics and cutting edge IT systems controlling inventory, convenience stores suddenly realise they’ve made the perfect e-commerce platform. The three leading chains, with Seven Eleven well in the lead, have the chance to revolutionise the entire Japanese retail industry.

Amazon responds to local competitors with 1-hour delivery   
Despite a small scale trial by Rakuten along the same lines, Amazon Japan has once again introduced  a new innovation into Japan’s e-commerce sector. In November it launched a new service in a small area of Tokyo offering 18,000 SKUs for delivery within 1 hour of receiving the customer’s order. The service is still limited in scope, but it may develop into genuine competition to Seven & I’s Omni7, and is certainly the start of Amazon’s ambitions to take on the supermarkets.

Editorial: Japan back in favour

Aeon Mall merges OPA fashion buildings with Vivre
Aeon has been talking up its plans to invest more in city centre and station SCs in the past two years, but mostly this meant large scale malls like Aeon Okayama. It will now take the OPA fashion buildings from its new Daiei subsidiary and merge them into its own Vivre-Forus fashion building business, creating a portfolio of 23 properties. Aeon will allocate generous budgets to refurbish, and in some cases rebuild, with the long-term aim to create a city centre shopping building network to rival Parco.

Couples’ savings fall but marriages harmonious for most – if only he didn’t snore
It is well-known that, in many homes, wives control the budget and the bank book, handing over a small allowance to their husbands each morning before pushing him out the door. What is less well-known is that, concerned with spousal profligacy, she also has a secret savings account for emergencies. So does her husband, but his is for those ‘hobbies’. Despite these illicit dealings, or perhaps because of them, the latest survey of marital life by Meiji Yasuda suggests a great deal of harmony among married couples.

Isetan Haus:  a fashion emporium
Isetan-Mitsukoshi has unveiled its latest small format concept, Isetan Haus. More lifestyle emporium than fashion select shop, the new format will be a bridge between its department stores and small boutiques. It offers the chance to project the Isetan brand into exactly the kind of shopping buildings and locations affluent 30s and 40s consumers prefer, and is a great new channel for overseas brands. Isetan Haus again shows the level and pace of innovation at the group, a level which will have a positive impact on profit margins over the next five years as the former department store group increases small store numbers to as many as 180.

Japanese consumers least likely to buy from online stores overseas
A recent survey suggests that, when it comes to shopping online, Japanese are the least international out of a sample drawn from 29 countries. For now at least, Japanese remain the most suspicious of overseas sites and specifically seek out local sites in their own language. Given that the demand for international brands is strong here, there are opportunities for international firms to better reassure Japanese when shopping online.

United Arrows up 8.7% in 1H2015 but same store sales flat
United Arrows posted improved sales for 1H2015 but, beneath the headlines, almost all the uplift came in September. The good news is that this looks like being the result of structural changes to its merchandise cycle, but there remain worries in the decline in footfall in the last year, and a sharp drop in sales densities.

Don Quijote aiming for 500 stores, expands discount conbini
Don Quijote is Japan’s largest and most successful out and out discount retailer. Loved by its mostly young clientele, the company is now planning to expand by up to a third, with its new, smaller formats becoming a key part of the business. Of these, Kyoyasudo, a discount convenience store aimed at senior consumers, looks to be the most intriguing.

Expenditure dives in October
Some were surprised by the pessimism from major retailers when many reduced end of year forecasts last month. Now, with consumption data for October showing spending on fashion accessories down 27%, it is hard to be optimistic – unless you are in the home fashion sector where spending rose 8%. Mind you, the same was said in 2014 and consumers then  proved economists wrong.

Uniqlo extends Toray partnership, plans sports and e-commerce focus
Fast Retailing and Toray never envisaged that their informal partnership a decade ago would turn into a ¥1 trillion collaboration. A new five year partnership with the textiles giant starting next year will not only see more innovations in basic apparel, but a major push into apparel growth segments. This will include big innovations in sportswear and sports fashion, and will also be front and centre of a major push into e-commerce.

IN BRIEF
Itochu relaunches LeSportsac in China, up 10% in Japan
Tokyu Hands rolls out new small formats
Versace opens first Japan flagship
Anya Hindmarch goes from strength to strength
Parco to open Zerogate Sapporo with Forever 21, buys Kobe site to open another
Tax-free limit to fall to ¥5,000
Amazon opens import home fashion store
Marui opens small format shoe store
Working age population to fall 12.4% by 2030
Urban Research opens 8th Sonny Label store
Dr. Martens to add 20 stores in Japan
Clarks Shoes to double sales in 5 years
Marui forecasts sales of ¥7 billion from Shibuya Modi
Japanese farmers branding foods, ready for TPP and new export market
Familymart to offer self-service cash registers in 1,500 stores.
Fruit consumption dropping
Izumi acquires Super Daiei
Top electronics retailers opening more stores in city centres
Nomura says e-commerce to double by 2021

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