While the global economic contraction has impacted the Japanese consumer goods market in the last two years there are still good market opportunities U.S. manufacturers should be aware of, especially in kitchenware and cooking-related goods. Japanese consumers’ increasing consciousness of both health and cost savings has led to the growing popularity of “uchishoku” or home-cooked meals. Consumers are looking for unique and convenient housewares and high-quality imports with distinguished designs and colors are much sought-after. This report will provide an overview of the Japanese housewares market focusing on kitchen/tableware and cooking-related items and examines the potential for U.S. products.
With 2009 sales of 116 billion yen (approx.1.23 billion US dollars) the Japanese kitchen tools retail market remains one of the worlds’ largest despite a 3.3 percent decline from the previous year. Imports from the U.S. and Europe accounted for a 16.4% share of the market according to Yano Research Institute. Based on the Japan Exports & Imports Commodity import statistics the US has a 2 percent share of kitchenware and cookingware imports in 2009, valued at ¥1.7 billion. (See “Marketing Data” section in this report.)
The rise and subsequent dip in the Japanese economy during the first decade of the 21st Century has been reflected in the country’s consumer goods market. In the first half of the decade, the “Luxury Boom”, caused by new entrepreneurs called the “IT Rich,” as well as increased numbers of wealthy Chinese tourists, created a twolayered consumers purchasing pattern. During this boom, it saw sales of high-end brand products increase but the worldwide economic downturn after 2007 led to a dramatic decrease in consumers spending During the boom, kitchen tool products in the $100 - $300 range (at 93.68 yen/1USD) were the best selling price points by volume. Post-2007 the volume sales price range dropped to $100 or below. Affordable products are taking a larger share of the market.
Increased “Economy and “Health” consciousness among consumers led more people to start spending time at home and preparing “uchishoku,” or home-cooked meals. “Bento-Danshi”, young business men, started to regularly pack their own lunch box, or “bento” to take to the office. In addition to their functionality, many colorful and affordable kitchen tools under $100 sold well among fashionable young consumers.
Large “Fast Fashion” brand chains such as H&M and Forever 21 entered the market from the U.S. and Europe in the last few years. For home fashion, IKEA and Mujirushi Ryohin, for instance, have been successfully promoting products by demonstrating various styles of living rooms and kitchen settings instead of selling by product category. Japanese consumers started to think in terms of kitchen tools as home interior and to use them to express their lifestyle.
Department stores have been the key sales channel for high-end kitchen tools and cooking products. However, along with the evolution of more diversified lifestyles in Japan, sales channels have also diversified. Retail channels now include lifestyle stores, TV shopping channels, and online stores such as Rakuten and Amazon Japan. With 78.2 percent of Japanese using the Internet, a wide variety of products are sold online. Price competition became more intense, even for the brand products, as their products became available through various sales channels such as online shops. Makers of popular products soon found many similarly-designed products from third country suppliers in the market selling at lower prices at volume retailers or discounters.
Some manufacturers have successfully marketed cooking tools with recipe books using their products. More companies are also utilizing network marketing to introduce new cooking concepts to Japanese. In the sophisticated Japanese consumer market manufacturers cannot count on selling solely on brand name but must find ways to show consumers how their product adds value to lifestyle.