Amazon Japan Enlisting 10,000 Private Couriers in Tokyo for Own Delivery Network

The Nikkei published on 22 June 2017 that it has learned that amazon Japan has enlisted 10,000 private couriers to create its own delivery network in response to Yamato's pulling away from amazon business. 

According to the Nikkei report, amazon Japan is aiming to secure 10,000 private couriers in the Tokyo Metropolitan area alone by 2020. Their focus is on private couriers who specialize in same day deliveries. This is in response to No.1 private courier Yamato Transport Co., Ltd. pulling out of the service, leaving amazon to switch to Plan B. This move by amazon is anticipated to be welcomed by the private couriers that are used to absorb overflow by such major players as Yamato and rival Sagawa during peak times, as it would boost their overall volumes and hopefully, provide steady work throughout the year. 

The Nikkei estimates that amazon ships approximately 300 million parcels per year. This is the equivalent to just under 10% of overall domestic small parcels delivery volumes in Japan. If amazon starts to spread more volume to small and medium sized couriers, this would help towards leveling the playing field for e-commerce deliveries, which, to date, is a stronghold for the big three: Yamato, Sagawa, and Japan Post. 
In Tokyo, by far the largest destination, Maruwa Unyu Kikan Co., Ltd.,  a delivery company offering "Momotaro Bin" services predominantly for online supermarkets and is listed on the 1st Section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange, has brought together private couriers. Maruwa has already commenced services within the 23 wards as the contracted delivery agent for same day deliveries for amazon.
Maruwa's objective is to keep a close eye on the working hours of the drivers while guaranteeing a steady volume and thus income for them. Maruwa plans to offer dormitories, fuel subsidies, as well as training. Where necessary, Maruwa is also prepared to lease light-weight vehicles that are easier to maneuver through the central business district to encourage newcomers into the business. 
Maruwa has already prepared several hundreds of light-weight vehicles for the job. The plan is to expand to 1,000 vehicles within this year and to secure 1,000 and more drivers. By 2020, the objective is to expand to 10,000 vehicles and 10,000 drivers so that same day delivery service can be realized in the major neighboring cities to Tokyo. Depots will be added to its network and the overall investment is estimated to exceed 10 billion yen, funded by Maruwa's own money. 
According to the Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare, in 2016, there were 2.01 job openings for every driver for delivery service drivers including truck drivers. This is much higher than the national average of 1.25 jobs per applicant, clearly indicating that it is a seller's market lacking resources. The reason is that the job is tough while the pay is light. 
Delivery services by light-weight vehicle requires owners to register their vehicle with the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism, and the business can be launched with just one vehicle. As at March 2016, the number of such registered businesses was 154,842. Many couriers are contractors to the large and medium sized delivery companies, but their business tends to rely on peak periods with very limited volumes in between. 
Amazon has its own warehouse and delivery hubs in more than ten locations throughout Japan. They have been offering same day delivery to mostly the urban areas excluding the most remote islands. Such deliveries have been handled by Yamato and japan Post, but Yamato has begun to cut back on same day delivery services with an eye on pulling out of the service all together. Yamato has already been forced to cut back its service offering by removing the 12:00 pm to 2:00 pm delivery time slot due to rising costs and overtime work, and in the need for higher efficiency. 
Many e-commerce businesses are heavily dependent on Yamato, and as a result, they, too, are having to reduce their time certain delivery options. Online stationery and office supplies seller, ASKUL Corporation (whose name ASKUL means "delivered tomorrow") has revised its time certain delivery options on 20 June to align with those of Yamato. The same has been observed for major fashion retailer ZOZOTOWN, operated by Starttoday Co., Ltd. 
In response to inquiries by the Nikkei, ASKUL has revealed that they plan to enhance its delivery services for its SOHO and consumer business. 
Japan's largest online marketplace, Rakuten, has also announced plans to establish its own delivery service while in response to the Yamato shock, in April, Rakuten ran a campaign to offer 3x more loyalty points (1 point = 1 yen) to customers who successfully receive their purchases on the first delivery attempt. 
Japan Post is also running a campaign from April through September whereby consumers can earn Ponta points (convenience store chain Lawson's in-store loyalty program) and other benefits if they opt to receive their parcels at post offices or via parcel lockers. 


Sagawa Tests Deep Learning AI Parcels Diagnostics Solution

Sagawa Express and artificial intelligence solutions developer Automagi collaborate to develop a Deep Learning AI Solution that measures and evaluates parcels.

Sagawa Express and Automagi announced on 31 May 2017 that they undertook the testing of a solution that uses deep learning AI (artificial intelligence) to not only measure parcels but to distinguish its shape, the presence or the lack thereof damage, and handling of parcels, a project approved by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and awarded to NTT Data Co., Ltd. 

Objective: a solution to help suppliers keep up with the growing demand of parcel deliveries

When it came to light in February 2017 that Japan's No.1 parcel deliveries company, Yamato Transport Co., Ltd.'s Union was asking management to reduce the number of parcels the company was taking in, shockwaves hit Japan. In no other country has domestic parcels delivery demands have grown to a point where service providers physically experienced saturation and overflow. Yamato has been trying desperately to keep up with surging demand by hiring more staff and outsourcing where necessary. But when reports of suicide from overworking and pressure and hours of unpaid overtime work would not stop, even management had to say, enough is enough. 
Against this backdrop, NTT data proposed that the labor-intensive operational processes in parcel delivery get some help from AI-driven automation. The company believes that by applying the latest deep learning AI engines, such tasks as acceptance into the warehouse, sorting, and even loading and unloading trucks can be automated as just a start with many more applications to be developed thereafter. 

Image Diagnostics Tested at Sagawa Sorting Center

Sagawa's role was to install the proposed image diagnostics device in its sorting center. The company hopes that in the near future, such solutions will enable it to reduce manpower at sorting centers as securing staff has become and will increasingly be more difficult as demand continues to grow rapidly.
At the front line of parcels logistics, the diversity of the shapes and sizes of parcels that are handled has traditionally made it a challenging, or daunting,  segment to automate. NTT Data's solution can automatically identify up to 1,000 different types of parcels for size, shape, how they are to be handled (fragile, "this side up," and so on), volume, and whether they are damaged or not. To date, such "diagnostics" of parcels is predominantly done by human beings. Once the parcels can be correctly identified,  such data can then be applied to create automated processes for loading and/or offloading, inspecting, and packing, says NTT Data, and thus, will lighten the burden on the drivers. 

Meanwhile at Yamato...

Yamato's Chronogate already has a robot arm that offloads parcels from cages (0:30 ~) and 3D scanners that scans parcels as they move on conveyer belts (the cross belt sorter 2:01~) that automatically sorts them.
Youtube Video: Daily Cargo published 1 October 2013


Amazon Japan to Stop Enforcement of MFN After Fair Trade Investigation

Nikkei Reports Amazon Japan to Stop Enforcement of MFN Status After Investigation by Japan's Fair Trade Commission  

 Original article in Japanese on the 2017/5/30 14:08
Nihon Keizai Shimbun Online Version 

 Amazon Japan will stop enforcing MFN (most favoured nation status) on its suppliers of e-books and for Market Place sellers, whereby they must guarantee the same price and merchandising assortment on Amazon as with other competing sites. Japan's Fair Trade Commission investigated Amazon in August 2016 over this clause in their contracts to determine whether it would be an infringement on the Anti-Monopoly Law. A similar investigation was underway by the EU Commission as well.
Japan's Fair Trade Commission was investigating Amazon because if the absolute market leader forces their suppliers to offer them the most favorable trading terms, that could become a major impediment for competing businesses to enter the e-commerce market. 
If suppliers and consumers were forced to have no other options to sell/shop but Amazon, the Fair Trade Commission was preparing to rule that they were infringing on the Anti-Monopoly Law. However, as Amazon has now chosen to self-regulate, it is now anticipated that the Fair Trade Commission would delay their ruling indefinitely. 
Regarding Amazon's FMN clause in their contracts, the EU Commission is investigating its legality on digital books while other Fair Trade Commissions including that of the UK are looking into the practice in online travel agencies. In Japan, the investigation on Amazon is the first in terms of MFN. 
Amazon Japan's PR Manager declined to comment to the Nihon Keizai Shimbun (Nikkei) when contacted on 30 May 2017. 

Side note: 
According to sources who know the Amazon warehouses well, Amazon is planning to delete the MFN clause from the contracts for publishers supplying e-books and Amazon Market Place sellers.
The EU Commission closed its investigation on 4 May when Amazon.com of the US submitted a revision plan and a pledge that it will stick to the revision plan for five years. 

Yamato CEO on New Rates: The Lifetime Cost of Shipments Are the New Standards for Pricing

Yamato Holdings Co., Ltd. CEO Masaki Yamuchi to Nikkei: if customers decide to leave us, then that cannot be helped. 

So the heavy discounts for high volume customers came at a time when your business was predominantly C2C based on the efficiencies gained in the first mile? 
Yamauchi:Yes, that is correct. That is how it was for us when we first started with Ta-Q-Bin. It was a time when there were more than 30 players in the parcel delivery market. At the time, I believe the management's decision to approve of the heavy discounts was so that we could gain market share by securing such high volume customers.
     But times have changed now. Market share is not our top priority. We focus more on offering a convenient and high value-added services to our customers and we have been investing to offer more of that.

This time, Yamato announced that you will cap the volume of parcels you receive, which is a powerful message that it is not about market share for you. When did this change in emphasis on market share come about as a management mandate? 
Yamauchi:This is extremely difficult to answer. We went to buy market share when it mattered and the market was very competitive. But today, the rivals of yesteryears are merged as in the case of Nittsu's Pelican service and Japan Post. 
Did Yamato specifically feel a sense of urgency when Japan Post was aggressively pursuing market share leading up to their IPO? 
Yamauchi:No, not by then. There was a time leading up to that time when we felt that Japan Post was aggressively pursuing market share to show that they were growing. Around that time, we began to see prices fall in the market and the causing much confusion. We deliberately made a decision to distance ourselves from that.
     For customers who want to cut costs to increase their competitive edge, there is nothing we can do if they decided to use other suppliers based on cost alone. On the other hand, we have customers who want to offer better service and products to grow their business.
     At the moment, Yamato is focusing on servicing the latter group with our best efforts, and we are openly honest with the former group to say there is only so much we could do for them. And if price is all they care for, and they choose to move away from us, we feel there is nothing we could do about it.
     The Yamato brand is built on the strong commitment to ongoing delivery of good service. This is what we believe in at Yamato and this is how we will serve our customers.

You have made public announcements that you will pay retroactively for unpaid overtime and will implement measures to increase the number of staff. Was the implementation of such measures delayed due to the misguided anticipation that productivity was on the rise in your operations? 
Yamauchi:As you can see from the volume growth trends for Ta-Q-Bin, we have implemented a wide range of measures to improve productivity in response. That is exactly why we managed to grow our volumes to the levels we see today and have been able to manage our operations efficiently to date.
     There is no mistake that productivity is on the rise. Just a quick look at the number of parcels handled per driver per hour is a clear indication of this. Productivity increase was realized through our full time drivers, the use of part time staff, and by implementing various innovative solutions over time.

Don't you think that part of the productivity increase was the result of staff not reporting their overtime work accurately?
Yamauchi:Productivity is measured by using the number of recognized active manhours and parcels processed. We monitor such activities through portable devices used by our staff, so if there were manhours we failed to capture, then such miscalculations may have occurred. We have identified areas where we failed to accurately capture necessary data, and that is why we are implementing the work style enhancement programs to steer it back to accurate figures.

No Consistency in Hiring Plans 

When we look at your hiring trends, we fail to see consistency in your hiring plans. 
Yamauchi:I agree that our number of new hires fluctuate between financial  years, but there are times when we hire more people in anticipation of volume growth and get too far ahead on overhead as a result of actual growth being more mild than expected. We also have the team collection initiative that has boosted productivity. Such factors may influence the number of new hires for the following year to be smaller.

In the period ending March 2016, the total number of Ta-Q-Bin business employees have declined. Why did this happen? 
Yamauchi:Sometimes, even if we plan to increase staff, we cannot hire accordingly. We did not plan to reduce employees, but that year saw our numbers fall not by planning, but as a result of many things. Because of this, we increased the amount of outsourcing to correspond with the growth in volumes.

Can't you increase salaries and hourly wages to secure the number of persons you need? 
Yamauchi:I doubt that alone would be sufficient. For example, if we could triple or quadruple the hourly wages, there would be people who welcome that. But we have cut up the work hours into small blocks like mornings and late evenings. In some areas, it is difficult to find people who are willing to work those hours and agree to other conditions, too. Such issues result in the inevitable imbalance of hiring when comparing areas and regions.

At what point did you and your management team realize you had a crisis on hand?
Yamauchi:Both management and the head of the Union are constantly monitoring what goes on in the front lines. For example, discussions on how to reduce work hours was a joint initiative with the Union.
     We announced that we would make an extraordinary payment to staff for reported unpaid overtime, but as I mentioned earlier, the point when we began to realize that reality was beginning to move farther and farther away from plans is around the summer of 2016. We abruptly began to face difficulties in hiring staff and our manpower was insufficient to maintain our business operations.

How did your operations people see the way things were up to last summer? 
Yamauchi:Up to about 18 months ago, we were having no difficulty in hiring part time staff in all regions. However, from around last summer, we started seeing an obvious drop in responses to advertisement.

At the press conference, you said you were "too late in noticing" the crisis. Do you feel there were ways you could have caught it earlier? 
Yamauchi:It is not that we did not notice, but rather, we saw a dramatic change come on abruptly and we were scrambling to respond. However, there is the fact that the change was much faster than we had anticipated. You can say that was an oversight on our part in retrospect. 
We understand that volume increases started as early as 2013 and operations staff were under much pressure since then. 
Yamauchi:I am not sure how to respond to that other than that it is true that our volumes began to grow fast and we began to see an increase in the number of failed delivery attempts as well as concentration in the late night time slot. I believe this coincides with the growth in e-commerce related parcels volumes. However, it is not until less than a year ago that we began to feel that our operational staffing was insufficient for the volumes. 
How did you monitor the failed delivery attempts? 
Yamauchi:We did not actually capture it as a data point and thus, it was not as visible. We began to feel that the number of failed delivery attempts were on the rise especially in urban areas as e-commerce related deliveries rose significantly. However, we only began to capture data the last two years. We also came to understand that as same day delivery began to be more popular, failed delivery attempts also began to increase. 
Yamato has been investing a total of 200 billion yen ($1.8 billion US) in such mega logistics facilities as the Haneda Chronogate and Atsugi Gateway. The concept of non-stop logistics was endorsed to operate gateways in Atsugi, Chubu, and Kansai 24/7x365 where core channel transport were to be transformed into frequent shuttle operations. However, as the mega facilities operate nonstop and bulk shipments become more frequent, your front line operations for Ta-Q-Bin have remained unchanged. Isn't this gap causing the additional burden on your front line staff?
Yamauchi:Based on the traditional business model, perhaps it is easy to conceive that as e-commerce shipments increase, bulk line haul should also increase. But with e-commerce shipments, there are localized, regional warehouses, so shipments actually increase within that region and not across regions. At present, Yamato sees the potential for bulk line haul growth in B2B traffic. With B2B, there is the issue of holding inventory and inventory being in transit. So by increasing the bulk line haul, we are assisting in reducing the inventory in transit.
     I urge you not to think that our mega facilities are there for e-commerce business. Yamato is focusing on this B2B channel as one of our future pillars. And we expect volumes in this channel to increase. When that happens, the gateways at Atsugi, Chubu, and Kansai will really become effective as will our bulk line haul network.
For the period ending March 2017, your operational profit target was 90 billion yen ($8.1 billion USD), but for the past ten years, your performance has been around 60 billion yen ($5.4 billion USD). What is the cause of the gap between your target and actual performance? 
Yamauchi:We had not anticipated the vast growth of e-commerce shipments and changes in tax laws at the time of creating our medium-term business plan. Also, we have our Value Networking Strategy, which is to promote international and B2B logistics, but we are facing some delays on that front. 
Did you expect BtoB logistics to grow more? 
Yamauchi:BtoB logistics requires our customers to migrate from their existing platforms to ours, which takes one to two years to execute. The sales process is also longer and the lead times requires is longer than we had expected. 
In the world of BtoB logistics, it is said that customization of logistics systems for each individual client is key. Do you see limitations in realizing B2B logistics on your existing Ta-Q-Bin platform? 
Yamauchi:We want to create a platform and offer it as a standard to the entire industry to help boost efficiency across the board. If we build a system that is good for a particular customer only, that would be beneficial to that particular client, but such a system may be challenging to use for other clients and especially small and medium sized businesses. Yamato wants to create a platform that is accessible and easy to use for small and medium sized businesses. 
How much does B2B contribute to your overall parcels traffic at this time? 
Yamauchi:When seen in the overall picture of all of Ta-Q-Bin, approximately 10% of everything that we receive is from individual consumers and the other 90% originate from businesses. Of the 90%, B2C is 50%, and B2B is about 40%. Our target for the Value Networking Strategy is still very small at this point.  
As your Value Networking Stragety with BtoB logistics at its core is delayed, why did you not think of increasing volume you take on from high volume customers like Amazon Japan to increase the volume going through Haneda Chronogate and other gatweays? 
Yamauchi:That was never in the equation. If we did that, that would finish us. The beauty of Chronogate is in offering high value-added logistics services, not just pushing volume through. 
The history of Ta-Q-Bin has been the history of creating new demand. As e-commerce thrives and grows, do you feel that Yamato is being challenged to change the way you manage your business? 
Yamauchi:Ever since we began offering Ta-Q-Bin, we indeed have a history of creating such new services as golf Ta-Q-Bin, ski Ta-Q-Bin, and Cool Ta-Q-Bin that were made possible by management focusing on the needs of our shippers. However, what we now need to focus on is enhancing the trust we gain as a social infrastructure.
     The challenges we are facing now is even giving management a sense of crisis that the trust we have built to date may be compromised or destroyed. That is why we have to shift our management focus now on our employees, who are the people who meet our customers to build and maintain that trust. 
When you say "now" are you referring to the unpaid overtime pay issue? 
Yamauchi:Yes. We have to once again respond properly to the changing environment and establish an operations base that enables us to sustain our trusted service offer to our customers. The only way we can succeed is through our people. We have to get back to being a company where our employees enjoy working with us. And to realize this, we have to reduce the volume we take in temporarily and we are seeking support from customers who can understand that.
     Customers who are only making deicisons based on price will leave us and that cannot be helped. First and foremost, we have to get back to where we were. Then, we will proceed with our Value Networking Strategy and other strategies to face new frontiers. Utilizing new technology will enable us to expand our shipping volumes. We have no intention of shrinking our volumes forever. 

### Masaki Yamauchi Profile ###
Yamauchi joined Yamato in 1984 and became an Executive Officer in 2005. In 2008, he became CEO of Yamato Logistics Co., Ltd. and then CEO of Yamato Transport Co., Ltd. in 2011. In 2015, he was promoted to CEO of Yamato Holdings Co., Ltd. 

The original interview was published on Nikkei Business Online on 29 May 2017 in Japanese only.


Nikkei Favorite Stores Survey: Sweets for Tween Men; Household Items for women top lists with Seven Eleven being King

The Nikkei Marketing Journal released the survey results of its joint survey of "Stores I Want to Recommend." Approximately 230,000 people responded to the survey and rated 348 store brands in 22 different categories.

Surprises were abundant in the findings...

Tween Men Prefer Baskin Robbins and Mister Donut Above All

The results for tween men shows that they are not shy to go into sweets shops alone or with friends, unlike their older counterparts. 

Their favorite stores that they would recommend to friends were:
1. Baskin Robbins (ice cream shop) 47.9%
2. Mister Donut (donut shop) 47.3%
3. UNIQLO  (casual fashion and accessories) 46.8%
4. Seven Eleven (convenient store) 43.1%
5. Don Quijote (discounted supermarket) 43.0%
6. Godiva (specialty chocolatier) 41.9%
7. Mos Burger (fast food) 40.3%
8. Loft (stationery and household goods) 39.8%
9. Family Mart (convenient store) 39.5%
10. Tokyu Hands (sationery, DIY, and household goods) 38.9%

Overall Ranking Has Seven Eleven Topping List

The results were presented by generations, but the overall ranking list looks like this:

1. Seven Eleven (convenient store) 40.6%
2. Daiso (one-dollar shop) 40.0%
3. Mos Burger (fast food) 35.8%
4. UNIQLO (casual fashion and accessories) 35.5%
5. MUJI (household goods, casual fashion, and stationery) 35.1%
6. Godiva (specialty chocolatier) 34.4%
7. Starbucks Coffee 33.8%
8. Lawson's (convenient store) 32.8%
9. Aeon (supermarket) 32.6%
10. Tokyu Hands (household goods, DIY, and stationery) 31.4%
11. Family Mart (convenience store) 31.2%
12. Nitori (household goods) 30.5%
13. Komeda Coffee (cafe) 30.4%
13. Seria (one-dollar shop) 30.4%
15. Baskin Robbins (ice cream store) 30.2%

Seven Eleven enjoys a whopping 57 months of consecutive, month-on-month revenue growth on existing store basis. And Seven Eleven was the only brand that ranked among the top 10 for all age groups in both genders. The chain has had ongoing relaunches of such staples as rice balls and pre-cooked food as well as limited editions in beverages, frozen foods, and prepared food.

Mister Donut is not just a donut shop, but offers noodles, fried rice, and dumplings in addition to their signature bottomless cups of coffee and cafe lattes. Two donuts and a cup of coffee comes under 500 yen ($5 USD). Combined with endless refills of coffee, it is a more cost-effective destination than Starbucks or fast food chains. 

Though Mos Burger is not the cheapest or largest fast food chain, for both men and women in their 40s, Mos Burger topped the list. For more than 30 years, the chain has been buying vegetables directly from its over 3,000 contracted farmers and displays the names of the farms the vegetables came from in every store. The chain is also famous for its founder and CEO insisting that all executive officers including himself, spend one day a year working in a store. The CEO himself flips burgers for a day in a kitchen in an actual store. He is also very hands on when it comes to developing new menu items and will personally taste test all proposals.

Consumers have commented "If I go to Mos Burger, I feel I can eat more vegetables," and the Nikkei reports that the chain is seeing its clientele of older men growing as they become more health conscious. Mos Burger by far outweighed McDonald's. 

Fashion Seems Doomed

What struck me was that not one fashion brand made the top 10, except for UNIQLO and MUJI. For women in their 60s and above, department store Takashimaya came in 9th with 33.7%, but for younger women in their 20s, 30s, and 40s, UNIQLO coming in 4th at 54.9% for tweens and MUJI coming in 2nd (53.0% for 30s) and 6th (39.1% for 40s) are the only fashion and apparel related brands. 

Even popular cosmetics brand Jill Stuart came in 140th in overall ranking. The results obviously show that Japanese consumers are spending on food and beverages, household items, and a "third place."


Yamato Strikes Again - Cat Building Box Video Goes Viral to Promote Small Packets Courier Service

Remember when couriers advertised their services by promoting attributes like:
     being on time
     delivering when they say they will deliver?
Remember "It is so easy even a MBA can do it?"
Well, Yamato just topped that. 
They claim that their small packet business is so accessible and easy to use that even a cat can do it.  http://www.kuronekoyamato.co.jp/campaign/compactcmp/
And yeah, of course their video is going viral!
AND, they are running a photo contest for cats with boxes as well as calling for auditions for a cat ambassador for the service!


Japan's Splurging Seniors: Enjoying the Fruits of "Saving Up for Old Age"

Now 10% of the population, Japan's "Swinging 70s Women" outspend not just men, but younger women on beauty, socializing, and clothes.

Over 14 million women, or more than 10% of the 127 million Japanese people are aged 70 or above. There are 1.4 times more women in that age group than men, and these women are outspending their younger counterparts in fashion apparel, social dining, and beauty services and products. 

  • Japanese women’s average lifespan announced in July 2015 is 86.61 years old, an increase of 0.21 years over the previous year. Blessed with good health and free of the financial burden of raising children and caring for their aged parents, these women outspend women in their 30s and 40s in fashion apparel, beauty services and cosmetics, and socializing. 

  • The governments’ household spending survey shows that for skirts, for example, women in their 20s spend 2,997 yen; women in their 30s spend 3,641 yen; and women in their 70 and above spend 6,749 yen. 

  • In the same token, women in their 20s spend 22,237 yen on beauty treatments (including hair cuts and styling); women in their 30s spend 34,301 yen; and the septuagenarians spend 39,299 yen. 

  • Mitsukoshi Department Store Nihonbashi Store (the group’s flagship store and known for its wealthy clientele including members of the Imperial family) opened a upmarket multi brand boutique named Re-Style Lady in September 2014, targeting women aged 64 through 74. To accommodate the older clientele, the store is fitted with twice as many fitting rooms as other boutiques within Mitsukoshi, and also includes a socializing corner. According to Mitsukoshi Sales Manager Takumi Odajima on the Nikkei Marketing Journal (12 July 2015 issue), the boutique has exceeded sales targets to date, and some months in double-digits.

  • Fast Nail, a nail salon chain with 31 salons, is seeing approximately 20 regular customers who are in their 70s at one of their flagship salons, Nails Unique Ultimate in Toshima-ku, Tokyo. According to Chihiro Yamawaki, Store Manager, in an interview with CarpeDiemJapan, “while the average customer in her 20s and 30s spend around 10,000 yen per visit, the older customers spend at least 12,000 yen because they have no restrictions for designs due to work. They are happy to have more decorative nails. They also come here for the socializing. Spending a couple of hours chatting to our manicurists is something they enjoy and look forward to. "

  • Yuko Yuko, a travel publication targeting seniors, is now delivered to 1.2 million households and 1.5 million subscribers. http://www.yukoyuko.co.jp/service/  The bimonthly publication not only offers information, but is full of vouchers that offer special packages at hotels and restaurants, as well as discounts. 33% of all voucher users are over the age of 70 and 70% of them are women. “The average price for a lunch is in the higher 2,000 yen range, but readers seem to choose their destinations not by price, but by atmosphere and quality of the food,” comments YukoYuko Senior Management Strategist, Hiroki Utsumi. (source: YukoYuko advertising brochure)

  • Iki Iki is a magazine for 50+ readers whose subscription base is 47% septuagenarians. Their e-commerce site: http://www.e-ikiiki.jp/ec/ proves that the older customer is just as responsive to trends as younger women. For example, oil supplements and oil drinks is a popular health trend among younger women. The same products are popular on Iki Iki as well. “Our readers are particularly responsive to trends in healthcare products,” says Junichi Tsuchiya, Executive Officer of Iki Iki. (source: CarpeDiemJapan interview)

  • Egao Shashinkan http://egao-shashinkan.jp/ is a photo studio for older people that opened in March 2014. They offer a make over and photo shoot package at 19,800 yen and 2 hours a session that is popular. According to Akiyoshi Ohta, Representative, approximately 75% of the clientele are over 70 and 90% are women. While many customers choose to have photos taken as funeral portraits, most come in groups with friends. The photo studio is run entirely by men and the female customers enjoy being pampered by them. The studio currently enjoys over 80 bookings a month since the beginning of this year. (source: the Nikkei Shimbun)

  • At El Viento Flamenco Studio in Nara, http://www.elviento-flamenco.com/index.html , there are classes for women aged 70 and above that is extremely popular. The school offers classes to students of all ages, but the two classes for these older women have the lowest turnover with approximately 20 students. The school hosts a major performance for all its students on a biannual basis, and the older students are the most lavish when it comes to costumes. Some will actually travel to Madrid, Spain to order one and the others don’t buy ready-to-wear, either. When the school hosts special lessons by inviting teachers from Spain, the senior women are usually the most committed to these extracurricular programs that run every day for a week or 10 days. “I love the dance, I love doing it with friends who share the same passion. Sometimes, I feel more comfortable being with them than being with my husband who has been working long hours for more than 40 years since we spent little time together - we were both busy. I was busy with the children and he was working,” says Emiko Wada, 75. (source: CarpeDiemJapan interview)

  • According to a survey by Hakuhodo DY Media Partners, Hakuhodo HABIT 2013, septuagenarians on average have 53,000 yen per month that they can spend freely vs. 35,100 yen for their working age counterparts. And while men tend to spend more time at home, women are more active. They grew up as the Japanese economy was picking itself up after World War II. They enjoyed themselves during the Bubble Economy, and they are keen to stay active and are not shy to spend. 

The Japanese senior consumer has long since parted with stereotypes about age and how senior citizens should dress, act, and spend. They spent the last 40 or so years “saving up for old age” and now they are cashing it in. Women aged 70 and above are now 10% of the population, but by 2050, they will be 18% - or, one out of every five Japanese person will be a woman aged 70 or higher. Is your brand/product really just for younger adults? Have you prematurely excluded seniors as a potential target without exploring the possibilities with this affluent consumer group?


Department store Matsuya has started offering higher quality premium products at a 10% discount on the 15th day of every even month - the day pensions are paid. As a result, they are seeing year on year growth of 10% or higher on those days. Other potential services septuagenarians appreciate in retail is the interaction with the sales staff. More staff and more rest areas (couches and benches) and creating a seniors friendly environment is a powerful differentiation factor.