April 8 2021

Rakuten: win-win alliance with Japan Post

Highlights from JapanConsuming monthly report

News and Analysis on Japanese retailing and consumers

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April 2021 Issue

Gamechanger: Rakuten’s win-win alliance with Japan Post
The war between Softbank/Z Holdings and Rakuten for leadership in digital ecosystems has seen Z Holdings acquire new partners and subsidiaries, and take leadership in cashless payments and then messaging through its merger with LINE (see Page10). Now Rakuten is fighting back with a truly game changing deal with Japan Post that could provide the reach and finance to develop new synergies in e-commerce, logistics, cashless payments and points, banking, insurance and mobile. This is a major reset in the rivalry in digital commerce, making Rakuten almost like a state-backed enterprise.

Editorial: Championing champions

Zozo Villa reborn
Zozo is accelerating category expansion and last month unveiled a new luxury/designer section alongside its new cosmetics space. Zozo Villa will help Zozo increase sales as well as raise margins through higher average shipment values.

Seijo Ishii outperforms in pandemic
Seijo Ishii is Japan’s largest upscale supermarket chain. Last year, as people stayed at home and looked for higher quality foods  to replace dining out, the chain outperformed. Selling fresh food and its own range of exclusive deli and many imported brands, it is an excellent partner for overseas firms. Seijo now has one of the highest margins of any supermarket in Japan.

Amazon adds netsuper partnerships
Last year saw the launch of a new netsuper by Amazon and Life. The combination of the leading e-commerce retailer and the country’s top supermarket chain makes this one of the strongest contenders in the race for online food sales – although Rakuten and Z Holdings aren’t standing still. Amazon is now expanding its tie-up with Life and plans to bring in Valor as a new partner later this year.

Nishimatsuya Chain thrives in Covid
Not many apparel-based retailers improved performance during 2020 but Nishimatsuya Chain was an exception, with its suburban locations, reasonable prices and house-bound children and parents all contributing. Whether the children’s retailer can continue the momentum depends on private brands and more non-apparel but the children’s market remains wide open for any brand or retailer with high cost-performance.

Department stores and GMS: a bit better than expected in CY2020
Monthly sales data for GMS chains and department store branches was withheld last year as companies were reluctant to reveal just how bad things were. For most GMS chains, however, it turns out CY2020 was a great year and for food supermarkets, the shift to buying more fresh food could endure beyond the pandemic. Department stores did poorly but there were some striking differences in performance between stores.

Z Holdings begins LINE leverage
Z Holdings’s merger with LINE will create a business with 300 million domestic users and 15 million corporate accounts with vast potential to synergise data across browsing, media, chat, shopping, banking and mobile. The first step is a new gift and group shopping experience for LINE users.

The suit comes off: suits retail market collapses
The suits market is in free fall, with average expenditure per household down from a peak of ¥19,000 to just ¥1,300 last year. The big four suit retailers are reeling, slashing staff, stores and sales space and investing in new businesses outside of the suits market. While suits are in decline, workwear suits starting at ¥4,800 are taking off.

Drugstores: growing leadership in food, household, cosmetics and some drugs too

Drugstore retailing is growing faster than any sector other than e-commerce. Positioned to meet customer needs for well-being, health and, nowadays, a broad range of daily necessities including food, drugstores are becoming ever more integrated into consumers’ shopping experience. Their eclectic ranges also mean they perform well in the middle of natural disasters and crises of various forms and many chains have seen good results thanks to earthquakes, extreme weather and especially thanks to Covid, but this doesn’t fully explain the sector’s success. Crises may have helped, but Japan’s top drugstores are today some of the country’s best retailers in their own right.

Retail Data: Expenditure falls 4% but household up 13%

Virtual shopping app for Isetan Shinjuku
GU launches babywear range
Meitetsu sells Kanazawa store
Crooz opens outlet mall with 70 brands
Japanese whisky to become Japanese whisky?
Isetan Mitsukoshi gets new CEO
Kintetsu plans 15% of sales from franchises
New alcohol labelling coming
Nippon Express launches halal-certified logistics
Seven Eleven using Twitter for promotions
LIXIL opens in Singapore
Uber ties with JAL
Mitsui merges apparel divisions with Nippon Steel
Equaland sells everything for ¥0
ABC Mart launches new format
Belle Maison opens on JRE Mall
Retail Partners expanding across Kyushu
H2O looking to bolster supermarket subsidiaries
Mitsubishi opens showroom store in Marunouchi
Mitsui Fudosan to add 7 more logistics parks
J Front launches new loyalty programme
Onward sells Jil Sander
IKEA to open 3rd city centre store in Shinjuku

Brands and Retailers in this Issue

Adastria, 1
Adidas, 10
Aeon, 5-6, 11, 17-19
Ain, 15, 17-19
AJD, 17
Alfressa, 17
Amazon, 1, 4, 6, 11, 13, 15
Amu Plaza, 20
Aoki Holdings, 12-13
Aoki Suit, 12
Aoyama Shoji, 12-13
Belle Maison, 10
Beniya Shoji, 15
ByteDance, 11
Cawachi Yakuhin, 1, 15
Chiyoda, 1
Chubu Yakuhin, 15
Cocokara Fine, 15, 17-18
Cosmos Yakuhin, 11, 15, 17, 19
Counterworks, 11
Crooz, 4
Daikoku, 15
Daimaru Matsuzakaya, 12-13
Direx, 17
Disney Fantasy, 10
Drug Eleven, 15
Dunhill, 4
Eldeze, 4
Elfin Doll, 7
Equaland, 9
Ermenegildo Zegna, 4
Evergreen Hirojin, 15
Fast Retailing, 3
Fuji Yakuhin, 15, 17
Fujisaki, 9
Genky, 1, 15, 17, 19
Hakuhodo, 3
Hankyu Oasis, 11
Hapycom, 17-18
Heiwado, 9
Hero, 4
Isetan, 1, 9
Izumi, 9
Izumiya, 11
Izutsuya, 9
Japan Post, 1, 3-4
Jil Sander, 13
Kanebo, 14
Kansai Stores, 15
KDDI, 12
Keikyu, 9
Keio, 9
Kenzo, 4
Kintetsu, 6, 9
Kirin, 7
Kokura, 9
Komeri, 1
Konaka, 12
Kose, 14
Kyushu Drug, 15
Lawson, 5, 15
Life Corp, 6
Loewe, 4
Marni, 4
Martin Margiela, 4
Matsukiyo, 15, 17, 19
Matsuya Ginza, 10
Maxvalu, 6
Medipal, 17-18
Meidiya, 5
Meitetsu Mza, 4
Mercari, 3
Milleporte, 4
Mitsui Bussan, 9, 17-18
Mitsui Fudosan, 12
Mitsukoshi, 1, 9
Montblanc, 4
Muji, 1, 6, 9
Naver, 11
Nichiryu, 17-18
NID, 17
Nihon Chozai, 17-19
Nihon Drug, 17
Nike, 10
Nishimatsuya Chain, 1, 7
No Affiliation, 17
Oasis Stylewear, 13
Odakyu, 9
Onward Holdings, 13
PayPay, 1, 3, 10-11
Qol, 15, 17-18
Rakuma, 3
Rakuten, 1, 3-6, 10-11, 15
Ralph Lauren, 4
Sagawa, 3
Seijo Ishii, 1, 5-6
Seiyu, 1, 5-6
Senshukai, 10
Seven Eleven, 3, 7, 15, 17
Shimamura, 1
Shoplist, 4
Softbank, 1, 3-4, 11
Sogo Medical, 17
Sugi, 15, 17-18
Sumitomo Shoji, 17-18
Sundrug, 15, 17
Suntory, 5, 7
Takashimaya, 1, 9
Tencent, 1, 4
Tenmaya, 9
Tokyu Hands, 6
Toshin Kaihatsu, 9
Tsuruha, 1, 15, 17-19
Uniqlo, 1, 7
United Arrows, 1, 13
Valor, 6
Walmart, 1
Welcia, 15, 17-19
Workman, 1, 12-13
WWS, 13
Yahoo, 1, 10-11
Yakuhin Cawachi, 18
Yakuhin Yakuodo, 18
Yamato Holdings, 3
Yodoya, 15, 18
York Benimaru, 6
ZHD, 1, 3-4, 10-11
Zozo, 4


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