By  on September 1, 2009

TOKYO — Japan may be inching its way out of a recession but specialty retailers and fashion brands are still forging ahead with their retail expansion.

Over a two-week period, a flurry of new stores are opening here including Opening Ceremony, Ron Herman, Tom Ford, Rick Owens, Tila March, Brooks Brothers Black Fleece, Kitson and a new retail concept from Issey Miyake.

A large retail and entertainment complex called Marunouchi Brick Square also will open in the city center to house tenants like Land of Tomorrow, Cath Kidson and Brooks Brothers.

Although most observers agree Japan’s future growth prospects are limited as its aging population shrinks and it emerges from a long period of macroeconomic stagnation, it’s clear the country remains a critical market for luxury goods, worth something close to $20 billion. Plus this is an advantageous time to expand here as real estate prices and rental rates linger in the doldrums.

“In some of the cases I suspect there is enough ‘risk-sharing’ with local partners,” said Brian Salsberg, the head of McKinsey Japan’s consumer and retail team.

That said, it remains to be seen just how many of the new stores will outlive their initial burst of novelty and be successful in the longer run, as Takahiro Yamamura, a business professor at Bunka Fashion Graduate University, questions.

“Japanese consumers love new products, new things, anything new. That makes these types of specialty stores very popular at the beginning but nobody knows if it will last,” Yamamura said. “Japanese consumers are also quite fickle.”

All of these brands are entering an increasingly cutthroat atmosphere in what was already one of the most competitive retail landscapes in the world. This most recent burst of activity coincides with the boom of fast fashion here. Brands like Uniqlo, Hennes & Mauritz, Forever 21 and Zara have convinced Japanese shoppers they no longer have to shell out luxury-level prices to look fashionable.

Here, a look at some of the latest additions to Tokyo’s retail scene:


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