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Asia Watch: Still Going Down … In the Net … Anime Excitement

STILL GOING DOWN: Sales of department stores in the Tokyo area dropped 2.5 percent in February compared with a year ago, according to Japan Department Stores Association. Total sales of 28 department stores in the area were $1.18 billion, which...

STILL GOING DOWN: Sales of department stores in the Tokyo area dropped 2.5 percent in February compared with a year ago, according to Japan Department Stores Association. Total sales of 28 department stores in the area were $1.18 billion, which declined for the 15th consecutive month.

Apparel sales declined 1.6 percent, with women’s wear falling 0.8 percent, even though casual wear, sweaters and coats showed some improvement. Men’s wear sales rose 1.1 percent, while children’s wear sales were down 1.4 percent compared with the same month last year.

Overall sales of seasonal merchandise were strong in early February because of promotional events, but sales slowed down later in the month due to colder-than-expected weather. — Koji Hirano

IN THE NET: A study by Japan’s Statistics Bureau and Statistics Center found that Japanese consumers spend on average one hour and 42 minutes surfing the Internet each day. The study, done with 10,000 people aged 10 years and over and with 4,000 households, showed that men spend one hour and 57 minutes on the Web, while women use it for one hour and 18 minutes, mainly as their hobby. — K.H.

ANIME EXCITEMENT: Japan wants even more attention for its anime. Animated Japanese cartoons, or “Japanimation,” enjoy immense popularity worldwide, especially after Japanese animated cartoon artist Takashi Murakami worked with Marc Jacobs to make a new line of Louis Vuitton bags and the Japanese anime movie “Spirited Away” won the Oscar for the best animated feature film on Sunday.

The Tokyo International Anime Fair 2003 was held last week at Tokyo Big Sight Exhibition Hall and drew about 65,000 visitors. The exhibition was sponsored by the Tokyo International Anime Fair Executive Committee, which was established by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and anime-related industries to promote animated film-related businesses.

According to the committee, about 60 percent of all anime products enjoyed by children around the world are produced in Japan, with roughly 70 percent of such products created in Tokyo. Each year, approximately 30 animated films are produced for domestic theater release, and more than 2,500 animated TV series are broadcast in Japan. Japan boasts roughly 300 domestic companies producing animated films, over 210 of which are located in Tokyo.

“The goal is to create an exhibition that incorporates the possibilities for anime in an era of diversified media mix by showcasing products and services of firms in diverse fields, including the Internet and broadband, centered on anime-related industries such as animated film production companies, television and movie companies, publishing firms, toy manufacturers and advertising agencies,” the committee added. — K.H.

LI & FUNG PROFITS RISE: Hong Kong trading giant Li & Fung Ltd. on Monday reported a 38.1 percent rise in net profits for fiscal 2002, which it attributed to growing market share. Sales were up 12.9 percent.

Net profit for the year came to $138.5 million on sales of $4.78 billion. That compared with profits of $100.3 million on sales of $4.24 billion in 2001. (Dollar figures have been converted from the Hong Kong dollar at current exchange rates.)

In a statement, group managing director William K. Fung noted that after a slow start, orders picked up in the second half of 2002, and that the sales momentum has carried into the first months of 2003.

“However, we remain cautious about the outlook for 2003 because of the war in the MIddle East and the uncertainties that may arise in the consumer markets,” he added.

He also pointed out that the slow start to 2002 knocked the company off-track for its current three-year plan, which calls for Li & Fung to double net profits by 2004.

In a presentation package for financial analysts posted on its Web site, Li & Fung said its other worries for 2003 include the possibility of price deflation running between 5 and 8 percent for the year. To prepare for that, the company said it would continue to bolster its presence in the growing sourcing areas of China and Vietnam.

Li & Fung reported that 76 percent of its sales were to the U.S. market last year, with 19 percent to Europe, 3 percent to the Southern Hemisphere and 3 percent to East Asia.