Posts Tagged business

Initiative – entrepreneurs in Tohoku

There’s still a lot of gloom-and-doom, finger-pointing and anxiety-spreading “news” out there (some of it on this very blog no less), but I’m getting tired of that. Aren’t you? What I find interesting these days is initiatives like this one.

Japan’s major convenience store operator Family Mart is this month launching a newly-developed fleet of mobile convenience store trucks to provide services across the northeast Tohoku region.

With their bright neon lights and open-all-hours policy, convenience stores – known as “konbini” in Japan – have long been a key fixture in Japanese communities, both rural and urban.

In the aftermath of the March 11 disaster, a number of major Japanese convenience store operators toured the region in makeshift trucks to provide essentials to displaced victims.

However, the new Family Mart mobile trucks are a specifically designed project which the company was planning even before the March 11 disaster, with a view to gaining access to the most remote regions in the country.

via Shops-on-wheels to launch across tsunami-hit Japan – Telegraph.

Then there’s “social entrepreneurs”. Say, what? The Nikkei explains: Read the rest of this entry »

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Tesco’s exit adds to Japan’s tough reputation – FT.com

I’m interested in cultural differences, and in cross-cultural success stories. This FT article examines some of the reasons why foreign (non-Japanese) companies trying to enter the supermarket field have mostly failed, with the exception of Costco. The reasons for the failures seem to be a combination of lack of patience (expecting success too soon, not enough funds to survive many years with very small profits) and poor market-research, or perhaps assuming that Japanese consumers are similar to consumers everywhere.

The failures include Walmart (still here but struggling), Carrefour and Tesco. The reasons?

  1. “Carrefour failed to meet Japanese shoppers’ need for a broad range of fresh products they could buy daily in small quantities.”
  2. Walmart (which purchased Seiyu) “cannot find attractive acquisitions to expand in Japan”
  3. “With just 129 stores, compared with Aeon’s 1,900 or so stores, Tesco was just too small to compete with the large Japanese supermarket groups”
  4. “Western companies want to grow rapidly but that is unrealistic in Japan.”
  5. “the fiercely competitive Japanese retail market is a debilitating battleground, not just for foreign retailers… while operating profit margins for global groups, such as Tesco and Carrefour are about 5 per cent, for even the best Japanese supermarket groups they are around 3.5 per cent”

One exception has been Costco, the US membership discount wholesaler, which has slowly but steadily increased the number of stores it has in Japan.Increasingly cost-conscious Japanese consumers have flocked to Costco stores, often in groups, which share the large-sized packages that Costco products are generally sold in.Although Costco does not disclose its results, “the industry believes it is doing well and is keeping a close eye on it,” Mr Suzuki says.

via Tesco’s exit adds to Japan’s tough reputation – FT.com.

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