Japan’s Consumer Trends and Opportunities

Trends over the past several years have been heavily influenced by the devastating earthquake that hit Japan on March 11, 2011, a period known as post 3.11.

The disaster has changed the behaviour of the population who have become what is described as Eco-Ethical, more thought for others with a growing sense of ethics. There has been a shift from “disposable to sustainable” with an increase in value of the close family unit through stronger bonding.

There has also been a shift in the consumer mindset from “The more the better” to ‘Selective’ which in turn has resulted in well planned consumer activity in place of compulsive spending.

Smart Consumerism (SC) is a term that is being used to describe the trend, it encapsulates smart shopping; seeking goods made with recycled/eco-friendly/ethical background, goods with sound social linkage.  Some examples of SC include organic certified food and beverage products, FSC certified paper and wooden products, produce from earthquake challenged areas such as Tohoku to support the livelihood of those that have suffered and still affected by 3.11.  Products that help reduce environmental footprints such as cool-biz fashion wear (see below) and hand fans to reduce the use of electricity.

Smart Consumerism has given rise to “Smart” lifestyle which is attained through “Smart” shopping in turn equating to “Quality Life” Over the past year post 3.11, consumers have had to shorten working hours to cut power consumption and overtime, inadvertently this has resulted in a better work and life balance.  This increase in private time has been invested in family bonding, self development, hobbies, and leisure activities, but these must be at an affordable price.

The following gives a brief indication of some of the trends and opportunities in Food and Beverage, Personal Care, Fitness, Home, Information Technology and the Environment.

Food and Beverage There continues the be a strong concern on safety, with key attributes being traceability, natural and organic. Mothers of small children are especially keen on what they feed their families after 3.11. The other opportunity is in health food for the aged, the ageing population is focused on preserving their health through food, they are particularly concerned about hypertension prevention and improvement in their blood glucose levels.

Personal Care, Fitness;The Yama-girl (Mountain girls) and Tsuri-girl (Fishing girls) are terms used to describe ever increasing hobbies for woman that hike mountains and go fishing. These women begin their pursuits by buying all the latest fashionable equipment for the respective activities at a specialty store.  There is also a running or marathon boom populated not only by women but also by men from a higher age demographic, this has created opportunities for fashionable running wear and shoes, moreover for coaches and coaching services.

Personal grooming products for men are also tipped to rise over the next few years. Whilst this sector has been gathering momentum for the past five years or so in recent times there has been activity in the top end prestigious beauty care sector for men. With more time on their hands men have started taking better care of their bodies using skin lotion, cream, and various other beautifying products.

Home; The continued need to save power (electricity) for winter and summer until Japan can establish and manage alternate power sources has heightened the popularity of “warm biz and cool biz” which are essentially materials, appliances, apparel and so forth that can be used against extremities in the weather (chill/ heat) reducing the reliance on air conditioning and heating systems. The continued threat and concerns of natural disasters and the shift in thinking from high tech to enjoying nature has also created opportunities in long life food, camping equipment and other products that can be used for outdoor enjoyment or as disaster rebuilding aids. Other opportunities are daily necessities that leave fewer footprints on the environment including; eco-friendly detergents, cosmetics and toiletry products made from natural ingredients; but they need to be at an affordable price.

Information Technology; Software applications especially games, total spend on applications for smartphones in 2010 was just under $10 million with figures for 2011-2012 expected to show dramatic expansion. There is also an ever expanding market for accessories for smartphones / tablets, cases, and stationery products such as handwritten memo’s that can be downloaded, stored and filed on your device, as the “Shot note” from King Jim view it (Japanese only) http://www.kingjim.co.jp/sp/shotnote/

Environment; Alternate energy sources, such as solar power generators, Electricity companies now have in place a surplus buy back scheme. The number of installation of less expensive imported solar power generators has doubled however it is still only 10% share of the total market so further opportunity exists. Also opportunities for other forms of power generators, wind, water, and so forth.

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