'Made in Japan' making comeback

Wednesday, Jun 05, 2013 14:45

A card that reads "domestically sewn" adorns a suit in the Matsuya department store in Ginza, Tokyo. — ANN Photo
TOKYO — "Made in Japan" is making a comeback. Department stores, convenience stores and other businesses with extensive distribution networks are offering more domestically made products under their own private brands thanks to a depreciated yen that has narrowed price differences with imported goods.

Improved market sentiment is also expected to revive consumer interest in higher-quality products made in Japan.

Tags reading "domestically sewn" adorn men's suits at Matsuya department store in Ginza, Tokyo.

At the end of last year, Matsuya began moving production of suits sold under its private brand to Japan, using fabric imported from Italy and other places.

The department store said it hopes to sew the majority of its suits domestically by the end of the year. Before the yen weakened, most of its suits were sewn in Europe or Asia.

A domestically sewn suit sells for about 40,000 yen (US$400), about 10,000 yen ($100) more than one produced in Asian nations with cheap labour costs. According to a store spokesperson, "We want to make quality the centerpiece."

Most fabric used in the suits is imported, but the store aims to quickly increase the proportion of domestically produced fabric to 20 per cent, in time for the autumn and winter lines.

Stores run by Sogo & Seibu Co. are rolling out a "Made in Japan" theme in special Father's Day sales corners. With imported goods not as much of a bargain due to the weaker yen, the firm hopes to capitalise on the quality of domestic products.

Footwear chain ABC-Mart, Inc. purchased a shoe factory in Ishikawa Prefecture this year, and since May has been using it to make some of the private brand shoes it sells for 20,000 yen ($200) to 30,000 yen $300) that it had previously outsourced to factories throughout Asia.

Convenience store chain Lawson Inc. this spring began selling a line of bento meals made almost entirely from domestic produce, except for wheat flour and some other items.

These bento cost at least 100 yen more than those made with imported products, but apparently customers are willing to pay for quality--demand for these meals has been 1.5 times greater than for its regular bento.

However, production technology has improved in Asia, mainly in the clothing sector, and many consumers' preference for low prices remains deep-rooted. An ability to compete in terms of price appears to be key to whether this domestic revival will truly take hold.— The Yomiuri Shimbun/ANN

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