November 1 2022

Japan Convenience Stores: what is the future?

Highlights from JapanConsuming monthly report

News and Analysis on Japanese retailing and consumers

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October 2022 Issue

Itochu signs Forever 21, American Eagle returns alone

Two major US apparel retailers are returning to the Japanese market for another go. One previously entered alone but will now partner with a major Japanese retailer, and the other partnered with a major retailer first time around but will now go it alone, although with support from a French logistics firm.

Editorial: Brands adapting to new challenges

Part-time wages hit new highs

Low demand and slightly higher unemployment during the pandemic dampened the rising cost of part-time employees but that short respite is now over. Hourly wages hit a new high in August and are set to rise further in coming months, renewing pressure on sectors like hospitality, retailing and logistics.

Yahoo Mart opens Q-conbini stores

Quick (Q)-commerce continues to grow, with rapid home delivery providing a new level of convenience to meet demand from busy, urban consumers. Z Holdings’ team of Yahoo, Askul and Demae-can have run what is now called Yahoo Mart since 2020. In addition to 20 or so dark stores, Yahoo Mart opened its first three retail store locations in August. Given the data analysis and supply chain power of its backers, these stores could quickly become a thorn in the side of the big convenience store chains.

Marui: already a ¥3 trillion business

When just viewed as a shop building operator, Marui is a mid-sized property firm with a dependence on the Tokyo market. Its consumer credit business has always been larger and transactions through its finance arm exceeded ¥3 trillion for the first time last year. Marui now wants to leverage that data to better manage its buildings and identify fast growing businesses to invest in.

FMCG brands get premium status

Japanese consumers have a reputation for demanding top quality and being willing to pay for it. With inflation biting for the first time in decades, some FMCG brands are cannily polarising their marketing priorities by promoting both basics and premium lines in an attempt to mask general price increases. The aim is to reassure customers on quality and value at all levels, while introducing new, exciting premium lines to get those that can afford it to open their wallets.

Lowya – the Zozo of home decor?

Lowya is an online furniture brand run by Vega Corp that hit the headlines with 42% growth in 2020 while most other lifestyle retailers were reeling from the collapse in custom. Sales fell last year as the market consolidated but Lowya remains determined to become a ¥60 billion business in the medium term.

Muji opens 500 Yen shop, plans for 2,000 stores

Muji has been trying to both reduce prices and consumer perception of its price positioning in the past few years, both at home and abroad. This has been a hard slog but a new chain will make it clear that Muji is shifting to become a competitor for even discount and fixed price chains across food, home and clothing.

Aeon to open first OMO Flagship

In search of ¥1 trillion in ‘digital-related’ sales by 2026, Aeon will open its first, built-from-scratch online-offline marketing store in Yokohama this month. The new Aeon SC introduces a range of features and processes to make e-commerce a natural supplement to the store and the shopping experience.

Misaki Shoji goes under

Fashion importers faced unprecedented challenges in the past few years, not least Covid and a weak Yen, exposing those with more anaemic balance sheets. One such is the former distributor of Dolce & Gabbana, Misaki Shoji, which has filed for bankruptcy.

Welcia challenges Cosmos in Kyushu

Welcia and Tsuruha, the country’s leading drugstore chains, are both looking to expand quickly in Kyushu after only entering the market recently. This won’t be easy. Kyushu is full of discount retailers led by one of the best discounters, Cosmos Yakuhin, which is also a leading drugstore chain.

Gadget retailers face bleak outlook

Consumer electronics retailers and producers benefited a lot from the pandemic, supplying customers stuck at home with kit for work and play. The Olympics also encouraged people to update their TVs and entertainment systems. Now, however, sales are falling to pre-2020 levels due to market saturation. Inflationary pressures also mean more people are turning to second-hand options or simply not replacing old appliances at all.

Ito-Yokado ties with Takarajimasha

Ito-Yokado continues to struggle, especially in apparel, but the GMS chain has now launched a new tie-up with Takarajimasha to develop unique lines of functional apparel and accessory items based on data taken from the publisher’s large reader base. With no end in sight to the collapse in Ito-Yokado’s non-food sales, anything will help.

FOCUS

Conbini recover but is there growth in the future?

Convenience store retailing was one of the worst hit retail sectors during Covid as commuters and students stayed at home. Recovery has taken time but sales should exceed 2019 levels by the end of this year. Recovery aside, however, the sector has reached saturation, so the only way to grow is to maximise traffic to stores and the amount each customer spends. This is forcing unprecedented innovation on a sector already famous for it. The big chains are also now creating new events featuring foreign foods, providing new opportunities for foreign food brands and export agencies.

IN BRIEF

Land’s End quits Japan after 30 years

Virtual try-on service in 5 seconds

Mark & Lona plans IPO in October

Mitsui to open Midtown in Yaesu

Odakyu moves to Halc

Mitsukoshi sees watch sales up 40%

Snow Peak CEO resigns due to pregnancy

Goldwin launches new chain, ties with DCM

Cosmetics market up 2.6%

Seniors now 29% of population, 25% still in work

Choosebase Shibuya: 180 merchants

Tokyo Base up in Japan, down in China

Magaseek helps Itochu go online

Tokyu opens showrooming shoe shop

Louis Vuitton travelling exhibition a hit in Japan

Kasumi frozen food lines

Kirin using AI in production

High-tech toilets get more popular

New D2C jewellery venture for department stores

New tableware from recycled food waste

Cheaper subscriptions at Another Address

PayPay introduces multi-person funds transfer

Couriers collaborate in Chichibu

Prices up on 6,400 products

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