April 2016 Highlights

Apr 19

FOCUS:
The future of online retailing has arrived, but implementation remains patchy
Japan is perceived as being behind other markets like China and the US in terms of e-commerce penetration. Statistically this is true, and implementation of online services and online to offline marketing strategies vary greatly by company and sector. 2016 is a watershed year as online purchase frictions are smoothed out through better online services, product presentation, and, above all, improved fulfilment and returns. Surveys suggest, however, that both foreign and domestic brands and retailers can do a lot more to improve the online shopping experience.

Duty-free for all: Lotte seeks ¥100bn, Takashimaya store in 2017
Suddenly everyone wants to open a duty-free store. Following on from Ginza Mitsukoshi, Takashimaya has confirmed its first duty-free store in Shinjuku next year and hopes to open another in Namba, Osaka the following year. Korean retailer Lotte has inked a deal for its third store, also in Namba, in 2017, and wants to have five in Japan soon, turning over ¥100 billion.

Editorial: The promise of youth

Two more Sogo Seibu stores to close, others under threat
Seven & I is working hard to fix its mixed merchandise businesses amid calls from investors to make cuts, which means more painful decisions on closure of major stores. Two more Sogo Seibu stores will close this Autumn after one closed in February, but at least eight other stores in the 23 store group have performance at least as poor as the ones marked for closure, suggesting more cuts to come.

Chain stores grow as prices increase
Sales at major mixed merchandise and food based retailers continue to grow, with increasing food prices proving the main driver.

40 million tourists by 2020
The current tourist boom is set to continue and become a major contributor to long term economic growth, or so the government hopes. In a recent announcement, PM Abe has doubled the previous forecast for tourist numbers in 2020 and set 60 million a year as a goal for 2030. By then, Japan hopes that tourism will be a bigger foreign currency contributor than even cars.

Yamato Transport extends CtoC fulfilment to convenience stores, expands SME merchant services
Yamato Transport has introduced a number of innovations in the past few months, including its own fulfilment service for SME retailers online, a joint venture with Neopost to run a delivery locker service, a tie-up with LINE, and last month created a new service to make it easy for CtoC marketplace vendors to ship their items.

LINE signs 100,000 in 3 days for new payment card, launches low price mobile service
LINE cancelled its IPO last August due to concerns about its income streams and the fragility of the stock market. Since then it has launched a series of new projects aimed at getting its 70 million user base to spend money. The latest idea is to get consumers to deposit their money with LINE and then spend it. It also launched a mobile phone service at break through prices.

US Investor calls for restructuring of Seven & I and clear CEO succession
Last month Seven & I faced investor calls to ensure a practical succession at the top of the company, and to overhaul its entire strategy to make better use of its strengths. Local press see the interjection as the latest example of a foreign investor sticking their size 12s into the affairs of a Japanese company, but the problem is, this investor has a point.

Fast Retailing closes last Princesse tam.tam store in Japan
Fast Retailing closed the Japanese operation of one of its overseas brands last month. The acquisitions of Princesse tam.tam and Comptoir des Cotonniers were originally about building a multi-national business, but that idea was then binned in favour of international expansion of Uniqlo and GU primarily in Asia. Fast Retailing has not given up on its overseas businesses, however, particularly Theory, which is now one of the biggest contemporary brands in the world.

Urban Research aims for shop integration for new webstore
Urban Research, one of the most successful fashion retailers of the last decade, has relaunched its online store with the aim to create a set of shopping options across stores and online that are seamless in the mind of the consumer.

Shark fin and turtle noodles are key to future says Nissin
Nissin is launching fake shark‘s fin and real turtle shell soups in a new range of ‘luxury‘ instant noodle products. Single men with a few extra Yen in their pockets will be delighted, although the products are also designed with the Chinese tourist firmly in mind.

Lawson: not dropping to third place just yet
Later this year, once Familymart acquires Uny, Lawson faces the prospect of dropping to third in terms of total sales volume and store numbers among convenience stores. Despite worries that Familymart will be boosted considerably, Lawson will remain ahead by both sales per store and, crucially, by profit, and is now focusing less on its immediate rival, and rather on the sector leader, Seven Eleven.

Erande: mobile personal shoppers
The young male fashion market has grown significantly in the last decade, partly because fewer men feel the need to save every last Yen for a future marriage that looks increasingly less likely, but also because of much better retailing. Many men still lack confidence in their choices, however, and a new service from a founding Start Today executive will link the diffident male population with personal shoppers drawn from fashion models and shop staff.

Retail Data: Chain and convenience stores up 5% and 7.5%
IN BRIEF
Hinka Rinka: Tokyu Department Store’s small format store
JR East aims for ¥20 billion for new SC NEWoMan
Drone delivery experiments start in Japan
Hands Expo: a radical new approach for Tokyu Hands
Burberry opens cosmetics pop up store for 4 days, ties with LINE
ANA ties with Laox, launches online mall for tourists
Isetan opening in Chubu Airport in September
Aoyama Shoji buys interiors business from Bals
Old Navy breaks 50 stores in Japan
Aeon admits to the possibility of a bad year
Fujimaki Select opens first store
CtoC craft marketplaces tie up
H2O Retailing signs Christian Louboutin Beauté
Mitsubishi opens Ginza SC with BCBG Max Azria
Omotesando Hills renewal
Labour shortage leads companies to keep part-timers happy
Supermarket consolidation continues in the regions
Aeon gets into sake production, expands farming interests
Mitsukoshi experiments with sales of new tuna substitute
Aeon WAON breaks ¥2 trillion a year in transactions
Nisshoku goes into administration
Big A to expand to 500 stores

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