Perhaps wanting to avoid the blues—what with Japanese consumer spending at the lowest levels in years, and with rival H&M just having opened down the street—the Gap's Harajuku flagship has really ratcheted up its holiday decorations this season. The duo walls of the facade have been blinking impressively with giant snowflakes and holiday greetings, and the grand steps are home to a Christmas tree—I believe—for the first time. Click for a larger view.
Examples of how major Japanese retailers in the Shibuya district of Tokyo have decorated their exteriors for the 2007 Christmas season. From top to bottom, moving left to right: Shibuya Parco, Tokyu Department Store (Toyoko branch), Tokyu Department Store (main store), Shibuya 109 fashion building. Click the image for an enlarged view.
The Oshiri Kajiri Mushi ("Bottom Biting Bug") earned his fame through Minna no Uta ("Everybody's Song"), a children's program aired on Japan's public broadcasting network, NHK. You can get a sense for his goofiness—and why he's such a hit with kids—by watching the above video.
But it turns out kids aren't the BBB's only fans. Mono Comme Ca, a Japanese apparel brand that mainly appeals to those in their teens and twenties, has licensed his image for several products that are apparently selling well.
But why not get as much mileage out of the butt munching critter as possible? After all, it is Christmas season—the biggest retail opportunity of the year. . .
Introducing the Mono Comme Ca Christmas window, complete with Christmas tree and village, and starring the Bottom Biting Bug as messenger of Yuletide cheer. The shop is located right across the street from the Meiji Shrine exit of Harajuku Station in Tokyo.
For those of you interested in holiday window displays in Japan, here are four examples of the efforts of some high-end retailers in the Omotesando / Aoyama area of Tokyo. They were photographed last week.
Dior's display is elegant. Bulgari's is understated. Tag Heuer's is clean and simple. And Kate Spade gets the enthusiasm prize for going all out on its flagship.
With luck I'll get around to posting a few more examples before Santa makes his rounds. . .
Seeking to take advantage of increased consumer interest in environmental concerns, Nisshin—one of Japan's leading instant noodle companies—last week released something completely new—cup noodle "refills."
Here's how they work. Consumers purchase a starter pack containing a reusable plastic cup and two shrink-wrapped noodle packets. From then on, they need only purchase the noodles, which come in several varieties. Simply open the refill, pop it into the cup, add boiling water and wait until the noodles are ready.
As far as the environment is concerned, this is a great idea with the potential to massively reduce packaging waste (Japanese consumers—especially the young—consume millions of servings of instant noodles each day). How well it will work in practice, however, remains to be seen.
I haven't had the opportunity to touch on visual merchandising issues for Japan yet, but since we've hit the holiday season I thought some readers might be wondering about how window displays are handled in Japan at year end. I took a stroll around the Omotesando / Aoyama area of Tokyo last evening and noted that at least half of apparel retailers weren't using Christmas themes in their windows.
I don't have statistics, but my feeling is that displays are a bit less "Christmasy" than usual. I'm not sure why, but I'm guessing that it's just cyclical—in some years retailers go all out, in others they're a bit more conservative. I don't think it has to do with the economy, which if anything, is slightly better this season. The photos above were taken at Benetton, Tsumori Chisato, Paul Stewart and Fendi.
The role of Christmas in retailing has grown considerably over the past 20 years in Japan. Since Thanksgiving is not celebrated, it is possible to see Christmas displays as early as the end of October or early November. Moreover, it's common to see large and sophisticated outdoor Christmas light displays in retail and entertainment areas that are hoping to draw shoppers, families and couples on dates.
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