A country of trends, Japan is one of the world’s top markets when it comes to lifestyle and luxury goods.
In our special edition of Focus on Japan, we look at the plentiful opportunities for companies, particularly European ones, to invest in the country.
The Ginza bling
Tokyo’s Ginza district is home to all things luxury. Swarovski is an Austrian family company which has grown into a big brand name, known worldwide for its crystal products.
It has been in Japan since the 1970s and now boasts 115 shops.
Vincent Nelias, Managing Director of Swarovski Japan, spoke to us from the latest and largest outlet.
“They (Japanese) are, in a sense, more classic in the choice. They enjoy more delicate designs. They love of course fashion and trends, but the share of jewellery we sell in Japan is more in the classic collections.”
Tourism boosts takings
For Swarovski, as indeed for the entire premium and luxury sector, one of the challenges is dealing with a boom in tourism.
Chinese visitors, for example, totalled 2.5 million in 2014. That number doubled last year, forming a big part of the evolving turnover.
Nelias explained: “We had to adjust the way to serve. We have Chinese speaking staff. We have specific best-sellers or collections. And we have also a way to attend them in terms of speed of service, in terms of presenting the collections.
“But, what we must not forget is the Japanese consumers. They represent 90 percent of our business in Japan. So, we make sure that we attend to them with the highest service quality possible.”
Grasping the ‘Omotenashi’
Reporting from Japan, euronews’ Serge Rombi said: “In this sector, perhaps more than others, if you want to succeed, you must grasp an important concept.
“It’s the Omotenashi, exceptional Japanese hospitality, probably one of the most advanced in the world.”
And then companies also have to understand certain customs. For example, if a European firm wants to succeed in the market, it must ensure that the Japanese want its products.
And of course the goods must already have proven their worth in the core market.
The general mood has also changed since the 2011 earthquake in Japan.
“What has changed? Before 2011, we consumed many, many things. But in 2011, we realised what we could lose,” said Ako Enomoto, a trend specialist.
“What is most precious to us? We value time with our family and friends.”
Osaka: a business launch-pad
Osaka is a bustling city with a unique atmosphere. It was in Osaka that in 2012 a Danish giant – specialising in “Nordic Deco” – opened its first store in Asia.
“Tokyo was too important a market. There’s no room for error. And Osaka was the perfect testing ground,” said Hirotake Yamamoto, CEO of Flying Tiger Japan.
“Our products are quite fun, and that fun side, people in Osaka complement very well.”
And that test was so successful that the company now has 24 stores in
four cities, including Tokyo. There is also a plan to double the number of shops in the coming years.
The company has had support from JETRO, the Japan External Trade Organisation.
Yamamoto explained: “In this market, we learned two things. First the Japanese market is a mature market and therefore the demand for quality is very important.
“Then we had to create specific products and adapt to the needs of the Japanese market. “
When it comes to luxury and lifestyle, the Japanese market is seen as a safe bet and a long-term investment.
And the European origin of products in these sectors remains a real asset.