November 6 2023

Convenience Stores shake off Covid downturn

Highlights from JapanConsuming monthly report

News and Analysis on Japanese retailing and consumers

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November 2023 Issue

Onward on the March

Some of Japan’s big apparel firms are making a comeback, and only some of the recent growth is coming from department stores. Most of the revival is thanks to direct sales through e-commerce and stores, and the increasingly seamless links between them.

Editorial: Doubling down on efficiency

Belluna becomes biggest wine and sake vendor

Belluna used to be a clothing mail order firm but now claims to be Japan’s biggest vendor of wine and sake. It is also expanding its interests in hotels and logistics.

Takashimaya to close Gifu store but posts record profit

Takashimaya saw a strong increase in sales in 1H2023, helping profit rise to record levels with much of the growth coming from clothing. The department store is not at all sanguine about the prospects for continued growth in luxury sales and the inbound tourist market. It is emphasising profit growth over higher sales by targeting locals through investment in store upgrades and more emphasis on better cost performance clothing – while also closing stores that are no longer viable.

Kao: added value might not justify price hikes

Kao is Japan’s leading distributor of household goods and, for years, one of the more profitable manufacturers. With profitability now falling and retail price rises seen as vital, the question is whether consumers will see more creative product marketing as justifying the higher cost, or whether they will switch to lower priced alternatives.

Fast Retailing: on to the next stage

Fast Retailing posted significant gains again in FY2023 and, although the majority of the growth came from overseas markets, including even the US and Europe, there remains significant potential upside in Japan from the expansion of e-commerce and the newly reconfigured GU, which the company now wants to make a global brand. Even PLST is gaining a new lease of life as a sub-brand in Uniqlo.

Watts moving away from ¥100 items

With costs biting hard, Watts, the ¥100 Shop chain, plans to expand its range of higher priced items, even to the heady heights of ¥1,500 for some storage and beauty products. Higher priced lines will make up a third of stock by 2027. It also recently introduced BOPIS, with e-commerce sales up 50% in one month thanks to the new shipping option.

Aeon and Seven & I to create ecosystems via financial services

Aeon and Seven & I both have large financial services arms, generating a substantial share of consolidated profits. With cashless payments now the norm, the old business models that relied on fees for cash dispensing are fast becoming outdated. Both retailers plan major changes to create ecosystems that should deliver a lot more data to improve targeted marketing for e-commerce and retail stores.

Air Closet now at 33,000 locations

Air Closet has become the leading fashion rental company and, following a listing last year, has signed numerous agreements to make it easier for customers to pick up and drop off their rentals, including a new deal with Japan Post.

Shueisha profits from e-commerce

Breaking out from the shadow of the big three online malls is hard but one of the more successful is fashion publisher, Shueisha. While most small e-commerce fashion ventures have focused on volume expansion, Shueisha is emphasising content over transactions, and profits over size.

Arcs joins Amazon Netsuper

Amazon Netsuper is competing head to head with Rakuten’s online food platform. Last month Amazon confirmed that Arcs, one of the largest supermarkets in the country and the biggest in northern Japan, will join Life, Valor and Seijo Ishii in using its system. Arcs’ existing online supermarket is already growing strongly and the tie-up with Amazon could take it to the next level, helping to compete with Aeon Hokkaido and Coop Sapporo, as well as Rakuten.

Sogo Seibu gets international management

News around Sogo Seibu’s sale by Seven & I to Fortress Investments continues to focus on what will happen next. Last month, Fortress appointed four new board members, including the former head of Prada Japan, seemingly indicating that department store retailing may remain the core of the business. Meanwhile, shareholders continue to fight a lawsuit over the sale price while, at the stores themselves, new, department store-style initiatives continue.

Muji recovers despite supply issues

Muji suffered sharp falls in same-store sales in the past year but recovered to some extent by the end of the financial year. Some categories continue to underperform but the real problem is expensive  supply chains, which aren’t a short-term fix.


Convenience stores still growing and still innovating after Covid 

Convenience stores remain Japan’s largest sector by format. 2020 was the first and, so far, only year in the format’s 50-year history when sales declined, but performance has since bounced back and continues to improve, although growth is slower than in the past. Still dominated by three of the largest retail chains in the country, it remains one of the most dynamic and forward thinking retailing and marketing sectors and the latest initiatives look set to deliver more growth in sales as well as potentially delivering much higher levels of profit through new services like retail media.

Retail Data: September sales up but consumption worries


Half of Gen Z still working from home

Record sales at Matsuya

New hires: specialty retail to increase recruits by 8%, apparel 42%

PayPay: 70% share of smartphone payments

Tokyu wholesales overseas fashion online

Kuipo signs French bag brand RSVP

H2O reopens former Sogo Seibu stores in Kansai

Parco Shibuya sales up 64%

Cainz refreshes private brands

Eddie Bauer starts again

Major supermarket chains collaborate on logistics

Mitsui to open Lala Terrace in Chiba, another Lalaport in Aichi

KEPCO monitoring your veggie freshness

Sagawa to increase prices again next year

3Coins up 30% 

10 million tourists in 1H2023

Staff Start sales hit ¥170 billion

Keio opens satellite store and new mall

Timberland opens concept store 

John Smedley in Aoyama

IKEA staff form a union

Barbour opens in Daikanyama

Excess packaging still a problem

French brand Veja opens first store in Japan

Zozo opens popup for Made by Zozo

Brands and Companies in this issue

Adastria, 1, 13

Aeon, 1, 8–9, 15, 18

Aeon Wallet, 9

Air Closet, 1, 9

Amazon, 9, 11, 13, 17–18

Anna Sui, 6

Aoyama Shoji, 4

Arcs Online, 11

Authentic Brands, 8

B8ta, 12

Barbour Japan, 12

Baycrews, 13

Beardsley, 10

Belluna, 1, 3

Bigi Group, 12

Bonpoint, 6

Buona Vita, 8

Cainz, 7

Can Do, 8

CBcloud, 17

Chloe, 7

Ciaopanic Tipi, 10

Clare Waight, 7

Coca Cola, 20

Colliers International, 3

Coop Sapporo, 11

Costco, 11

CyberAgent, 5

Daikei Mills, 11

Daily Yamazaki, 15–16

Daimaru Matsuzakaya, 5, 7

Daiso, 8, 20

Daks, 6

Dentsu, 20

Dior, 5

Disney, 9

Eddie Bauer, 8

Elevin, 3

Familymart, 14–16, 18–20

Famimaru, 14, 18

Fast Retailing, 1–2, 6–7, 13

Funabashi Station, 9

Genky, 1

Genten, 6

Givenchy, 7

Gooz, 16

Green Beans, 9

Green Lawson, 16, 19

GU, 6–7

H2O, 6

Hakuhodo, 20

Hankyu, 1

Happy Plus, 10

Honeys, 7

IKEA, 12

Inageya, 18

Isetan, 1

Itochu Shoji, 8

Jimmy Choo, 10

John Smedley, 12

Joinus, 21

Journal Standard, 13

Jun, 4, 8, 21–22

Kansai Electric, 9

Kao, 1, 5


Kuipo, 5–6

Lalaport, 9

Lanvin, 6

Lawson, 9, 14–17, 19–20

Lee Mills, 12

Life Corp, 11

Locondo, 10

Louis Vuitton, 12

Lucien Pellat, 6

Lumine Est, 21

Magaseek, 10

Mandrake, 5

Marisol, 10

Maruetsu, 8

Mash Holdings, 12

Matsuya, 1, 5

Matsuzakaya Nagoya, 7

Ministop, 15, 18

Mitsubishi Shoji, 19

Mitsubishi Shokuhin, 4

Mitsui Fudosan, 9

Mitsukoshi, 1

Mizujin, 8

Muji, 1–2, 11, 13–14, 20

Nanaco, 8

Natural Lawson, 16, 19

Newdays, 15–16, 19

Nintendo, 5

Nitori, 1, 4, 20

NTT, 19

Nunu, 5

Omni7, 18

Onward Holdings, 1–2

Pal Group, 10

Parco, 7

PLST, 6–7

Ponta, 9, 20

Poplar, 15–16

Prada, 5

Rakuten, 11, 13, 18

Ryohin Keikaku, 2, 13

Save On, 16

Secoma, 15–16

Seed Corporation, 13

Seicomart, 15–16

Seijo Ishii, 11, 14, 19

Seino, 17

Seven Eleven, 4, 8, 14–20

Shimamura, 1, 7

Shueisha, 1, 10

Snidel, 10

Softbank, 9

Sogo Seibu, 1, 6, 12–13, 18

Speedway, 16, 18

Staff Start, 3, 11

Takashimaya, 1–2, 4–5

Tanizakura Sake, 3

Theory, 7

Timberland, 11–12

Tokyu, 5

Tokyu Store, 8

Tsuruha, 1, 4

Tsutaya, 5

Twelve Closet, 10

Uber Eats, 14, 20

Unfilo, 1

Uniqlo, 1, 6–7

United Arrows, 1, 8

Valor, 11

Veja, 13

Walt Disney, 9

Waon, 8

Watts, 1, 7–8

Welcia, 5

Workman, 1, 7

Yamazaki Bread, 16

Yaoko, 8

Yodobashi Camera, 12

Zozo, 3, 10, 13


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