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Asia Watch: Dior Boom … Going Up … Share Report …

DIOR BOOM: Two long queues lined up in front of the Isetan department store in Shinjuku, Tokyo, on March 6, when it opened shops on its third floor for Dior Homme and Dolce & Gabbana. Both of the brands generated sales of more than $85,000 dollars on...

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DIOR BOOM: Two long queues lined up in front of the Isetan department store in Shinjuku, Tokyo, on March 6, when it opened shops on its third floor for Dior Homme and Dolce & Gabbana. Both of the brands generated sales of more than $85,000 dollars on the first day alone. — Koji Hirano

GOING UP: Louis Vuitton Japan Co. raised the prices of its products in Japan on Feb. 24 by an average of 6 percent. The increase covers all merchandise except men’s and women’s ready-to-wear and shoes.

The company has maintained the ratio of the price difference between France and Japan at 140:100 since 1978 and consistently reviews prices in Japan based on the exchange rate between the yen and the euro. The yen has depreciated 3.7 percent against the euro between February and November 2002. The most recent price increases before this were a 9.5 percent rise in February 2002, a 9 percent one in February 2001, and a 5 percent increase in February 2000. In the last 25 years, the company has raised prices in Japan 12 times and decreased them 11 times.

Also, Hermès Japan has increased its prices in Japan, mainly for leather goods, by an average of 5 percent. — K.H.

SHARE SUPPORT: With the Tokyo stock market nervous about the increasing likelihood of war in Iraq, the Japanese government has improvised a package plan to shore up sagging share prices.

The 225-issue Nikkei Stock Average last week closed at 8,002.69, up 134.13 from Thursday after dipping through the 8,000 mark for the first time in 20 years earlier in the week. The Nikkei closed Monday at 8,002.69, up 1.7 percent.

The Financial Services Agency has announced a package of six measures which, among other things, will allow corporate issuers to buy back 100 percent — compared with 25 percent currently — of their average daily trading volumes in the past week. It also removes a ban on companies from placing buy orders for their own shares in the last 30 minutes of each trading session. Reportedly, a plan is under study to increase the amount of stocks the Bank of Japan can buy from the market from the current limit of $16.7 billion. — Tsukasa Furukuwa

SHANGHAI SURPRISE: Han Zheng, the mayor of Shanghai, announced last week that the city’s plans to build the world’s largest deep-water port are facing delays. The first phase of the Yanghsuan port development was scheduled for completion in 2005. That date has now been pushed back until at least to 2007. Unnamed officials have blamed a change in design, which increases the number of berths to nine from five, for the delay, as well as equipment problems. Reports in Hong Kong cited the use of inadequate piling equipment that was unsuitable for heavy seas. Because suitable equipment is in use on other projects in the world, Chinese authorities are said to be considering building new equipment from scratch.

The container port will be located on the offshore island of Yanghsuan in Hangzhou Bay, just south of the city. The port’s total of 52 berths will be connected to the mainland via an 18-mile-long bridge, which is also under construction. The estimated cost for the first phase is $1.4 billion; the entire project could cost $16 billion.

In related developments, plans for a new 70-mile-long railway line have also been announced. It will link the new port with the Pudong development zone (home to Shanghai’s new exhibition center) and the entire Yangtze River Delta area. The city is planning to spend at least $600 million on the railway.

In other efforts to attract the world’s business and attention, officials in the city are trumpeting plans to open 10 museums a year until 2005. The city already has 64 museums and cultural halls, 23 devoted to various industries, eight to geology, seven to history, six to art and one to science. Future museums may have limited drawing power and tourism appeal as they, too, are set to have industry-related themes. Individual companies are likely to fund most of these. — Constance Haisma-Kwok

EASTWARD HO: British design house Vivienne Westwood, working through its Japanese distributor Orizzonti Co., has launched its first freestanding Japanese shop in Tokyo. The shop, located in Tokyo’s fashionable Aoyama area, has a total sales area of 3,300 square feet, according to a Vivienne Westwood spokeswoman here. The shop is modeled after Westwood’s London flagship on Conduit Street, but is enhanced with more futuristic interiors and fixtures. The basement floor sells Westwood’s men’s wear while the first floor features the designer’s Red Label women’s wear, with styles both imported directly and produced in Japan under license. The second floor is devoted to Westwood’s Gold Label line of direct imports. — T.F.

GALLOPING AWAY: Coach Japan Inc., which opened its first directly operated shop in Ginza, Tokyo, in May last year, is adding two shops in April, one in Shibuya, Tokyo, and the other in Shinsaibashi in the heart of Osaka.

The Coach Shibuya shop, which is scheduled to open on April 16, will be the brand’s second flagship in Japan. Its two floors, which total 6,800 square feet, will offer a full line of Coach merchandise, including men’s and women’s handbags, business cases, luggage and other small travel items, shoes, watches, jewelry, outerwear, apparel, sunglasses and home accessories. — T.F.

ALL FOR ONE: Fashion industry associations in Japan, China and South Korea are joining forces to form an Asia Fashion Federation to promote Asian fashion worldwide. An inaugural meeting of the federation is scheduled to be held in Tokyo in July, with the first fashion show and festival expected to take place in Seoul later this year. It would be followed by a second event in China in 2004.

The aim is to promote understanding of the cultures and fashions of the member countries, promote business and market entry between the countries involved, and nurture and develop fashion that is rooted in the cultures of the member countries, according to the Japan Fashion Association, which is funded by major Japanese apparel and textile companies. Akira Baba, chairman of Onward Kashiyama Co., has been named to take over the reins of the Japanese association next month. — T.F.

DIALING THE WEB: The number of people in Japan who access the Internet via their cellular phones surpassed 60 million as of the end of January, according to the Telecommunications Carriers Association. The association said the number of subscribers of mobile telephone Internet services reached 60,235,200 at the end of January, accounting for 81.5 percent of the almost 74 million of Japan’s cellular phone users. It means four out of every five users of cellular phones in Japan use them to access the Internet. — T.F.

ASIAN FREE TRADE: Japan and 10 member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations have begun talks to increase trade and promote economic ties in the region through the creation of a free trade area within 10 years. The talks were launched by senior officials from the countries involved, who met in Kuala Lumpur two weeks ago. It’s projected that exports from ASEAN countries to Japan would grow by $20.6 billion by the year 2020 with a free trade zone, while exports from Japan to ASEAN nations are expected to rise by $20 billion. The ASEAN countries are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. — T.F.

GALLOPING AWAY: Coach Japan Inc., which opened its first directly operated shop in Ginza, Tokyo, in May last year, is adding two shops in April, one in Shibuya, Tokyo, and the other in Shinsaibashi in the heart of Osaka.

The Coach Shibuya shop, which is scheduled to open on April 16, will be the brand’s second flagship in Japan. Its two floors, which total 6,800 square feet, will offer a full line of Coach merchandise, including men’s and women’s handbags, business cases, luggage and other small travel items, shoes, watches, jewelry, outerwear, apparel, sunglasses and home accessories. — T.F.

ALL FOR ONE: Fashion industry associations in Japan, China and South Korea are joining forces to form an Asia Fashion Federation to promote Asian fashion worldwide. An inaugural meeting of the federation is scheduled to be held in Tokyo in July, with the first fashion show and festival expected to take place in Seoul later this year. It would be followed by a second event in China in 2004.

The aim is to promote understanding of the cultures and fashions of the member countries, promote business and market entry between the countries involved, and nurture and develop fashion that is rooted in the cultures of the member countries, according to the Japan Fashion Association, which is funded by major Japanese apparel and textile companies. Akira Baba, chairman of Onward Kashiyama Co., has been named to take over the reins of the Japanese association next month. — T.F.

DIALING THE WEB: The number of people in Japan who access the Internet via their cellular phones surpassed 60 million as of the end of January, according to the Telecommunications Carriers Association. The association said the number of subscribers of mobile telephone Internet services reached 60,235,200 at the end of January, accounting for 81.5 percent of the almost 74 million of Japan’s cellular phone users. It means four out of every five users of cellular phones in Japan use them to access the Internet. — T.F.

ASIAN FREE TRADE: Japan and 10 member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations have begun talks to increase trade and promote economic ties in the region through the creation of a free trade area within 10 years. The talks were launched by senior officials from the countries involved, who met in Kuala Lumpur two weeks ago. It’s projected that exports from ASEAN countries to Japan would grow by $20.6 billion by the year 2020 with a free trade zone, while exports from Japan to ASEAN nations are expected to rise by $20 billion. The ASEAN countries are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. — T.F.

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