In Japan over the past couple of years, we've seen washable wool in everything from Konaka men's suits to sweaters by UNIQLO.
And now it turns out that manufacturers of women's suits are getting in the game too. Last week a Nikkei article mentioned that Isetan recently teamed up with Inéd, a popular brand amongst Japanese office ladies, to offer limited-edition, washable Inéd suits at prices comparable to the brand's regular offerings.
In tough economic times, shoppers start thinking hard about justifying each purchase they make, and providing a "reason why" allows them to spend more freely. "Just think about how much I can save on dry cleaning costs. . ."
Although it's not an answer for everybody, leveraging new technology like this may be one way to get Japanese consumers to revisit your brand. It's worked before on products that were technology-oriented to begin with, and also on items like fashion and sweets—normally not the kinds of things sold on functional benefits in other countries.
Lawson, Japan's second largest convenience store chain, recently announced that it will introduce a voluntary carbon offset program in April of 2009. Carbon offsetting involves companies or individuals mitigating their own carbon emissions by purchasing the market value of actual reductions made by others who've implemented pollution-cutting measures.
In the case of Lawson, the company has agreed to partner locally with Tokyo University, which is diminishing carbon emissions on its campuses by replacing equipment and lighting with energy efficient alternatives. Internationally Lawson will be purchasing offsets from an Argentine wind farm.
Apparently, Lawson will also make it possible for consumers to counter their own polluting through programs implemented at company stores. For instancethe chain plans to introduce carbon offset products as well as a system that lets customers buy back carbon emissions through accumulated loyalty program points.
Two weeks before Halloween, some department stores in Japan had already installed their Christmas displays. LaForet Harajuku, perhaps Japan's top trend-leading retailer, broke out the Christmas lights a couple of days ago. With consumer confidence at rock bottom, some Japanese merchants are going all out to spur end-of-year sales
Construction of H&M's Harajuku store in Tokyo is nearly complete. I have lived and worked within spitting distance of this location for over 15 years. As a resident, I'm dreading the mob scene that will accompany the opening eight days from now. As a marketing pro, I'm looking forward to it.
The mega-posters are advertising the H&M / Commes des Garçons collaboration products that will apparently be available when the shop opens.
Even with the best products and advertising, you can't maximize revenues and profits without an optimized sales strategy and a high-calibre sales team.
If your organization is under-performing thanks to sales issues, you may want to attend an upcoming seminar in Tokyo hosted by marcus evans.
New Sales Force 2008 will be held November 18 and 19 at the Four Seasons Hotel, with executives from Fuji Xerox, Kirin, Nissan, Kagome, Calbee and other companies presenting on topics such as:
- Best practices in sales force management
- Gathering and leveraging customer data, building and sustaining customer relations
- Exploring and improving channel strategies
- Recruiting, training, and motivating high performers, fostering powerful teams
- Achieving top management buy-in to ensure implementation of long term strategies
- M&A-related sales force issues
Just a few hours ago Takashimaya Department Stores and H20 Retailing announced a capital alliance that is expected to lead to a full-on merger three years from now.
According to reports in Japanese newspapers, the alliance will kick off with the two purchasing 10% of each others' stock. The two will begin efforts to combine sourcing and logistics immediately.
Together, Takashimaya and H20--itself the result of a 2007 merger between Hankyu and Hanshin department stores--will have revenues of 1.5 trillion yen, making it the second largest department store group in Japan, following Mitsukoshi-Isetan, which joined forces less than six months ago.
Sales have been falling steadily at Japan's department stores for more than a decade as consumers have shifted spending to other channels such as specialty retailers and shopping centers. As a result, M&A activity has been hot and heavy as department store chains have sought efficiencies and safety in size.
In recent years, Takashimaya had the highest annual revenues of any single chain, and perhaps, hoping to maintain its status and independence, the retailer remained the last holdout amongst Japan's largest chains. Industry experts have been speculating for some time as to when the company might join the merger melee.
H&M opened its first store in Japan this past Saturday, and as expected, Japanese consumers turned out in droves. We took a trip down to the Ginza location around 5 p.m., and by our reckoning, the line was still about 1,000 feet long. Japanese news outlets variously reported from 3,000 to 5,000 people waiting in line throughout the day, and store staff said the wait to get in the store was 2-3 hours.
Given the pre-opening news coverage and the enormous base of shoppers in Tokyo, a huge turnout was to be expected. But long lines in the first weeks or months of operation are no guarantee of success for retailers over the long term in Japan.
Japanese consumers are curious and like to try news things. But once they've encountered the brand, are they satisfied with the product, store, the company and service?
Those are the key questions that remain to be answered.