TOKYO — As Japan’s capital gears up for its biannual fashion week, which runs for six days starting today, analysts are cautiously optimistic that next spring will be more forgiving to retailers than recent months have been.
Japanese brands in particular have struggled this year due to the strong yen, which bites into the profits of those companies that do business abroad. Department store sales have also been weak due to the appreciation of the yen and market weakness. But some say a recovery is likely for spring.
“With no sign of the decline in sales worsening further despite negative calendar/weather factors, our impression is that department stores are gradually getting over the worst,” Nomura research analyst Masafumi Shoda wrote in a report earlier this month. “We project an upturn to profit growth in .”
Retailers agree that fewer Japanese consumers are shopping for the sake of shopping, but are now much more discerning and careful about how and where they spend their money. They’re still willing to fork out cash, but only if it’s on something really special.
“We are seeing a trend toward cost performance,” said a spokesman for Sogo & Seibu department stores. “On the one hand, people feel like they don’t want to waste money shopping, but they also want to get things that have a certain value to them personally.”
Nobuharu Sakai of the corporate administration division at Isetan Mitsukoshi Holdings, Japan’s largest department store operator, said the strong yen had negatively affected consumer mind-set last spring, but that the company sensed a slight recovery starting from around June. Like the Sogo & Seibu spokesman, he said customers are interested in value more than anything else and that they diligently research possible purchases before making a decision.
Brands participating in this season’s round of Tokyo Fashion Week will have their work cut out for them to create cohesive collections that are unique enough to catch buyers’ eyes but high quality and wearable enough to appeal to consumers.
As reported, the spring 2017 season sees Amazon replacing Mercedes-Benz as the headline sponsor of the week.
“We achieved a settled purpose, which is that we would like to make people who are familiar with fashion, to know Mercedes-Benz. As a title sponsor for five years, the image of Mercedes-Benz has changed. So we achieved the goal,” a spokeswoman for the car manufacturer responded when asked why the company chose not to renew its sponsorship agreement. “If we have a chance, we would consider [another] collaboration with fashion.”
Amazon’s sponsorship, meanwhile, shows its increasing push into the fashion category, which — along with groceries — is seen as key to its future growth. The sponsorship of Tokyo Fashion Week follows Amazon’s signing on to sponsor Amazon India Fashion Week in New Delhi, which wrapped up Sunday, and of New York Fashion Week: Men for the last two seasons.
Journalists, buyers and designers alike are eager to see what changes and benefits Amazon brings to the Japanese event. With many of Tokyo’s more established or buzz-worthy brands choosing to show their collections overseas or much earlier than Tokyo Fashion Week, the schedule for the upcoming season includes many first-time participants.
The week also seems to be slowly attracting a more international mix of brands. Chanwoo Lee, a South Korean-born designer who studied in Tokyo, will kick off the festivities with the first show by his new brand Acuod by Chanu. Later in the week there will be shows dedicated to designers from Hong Kong and the Philippines, and the secretariat of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, which will be held in Tokyo in the summer of 2020, has invited Italian designer Umit Benan and French brand Koché by Christelle Kocher, to participate.
International guests who have been invited to attend Tokyo Fashion Week this season include senior fashion editor at Vogue Italia Sara Maino, GQ style senior editor Noah Johnson, and creative director of Parisian boutique Colette, Sarah Andelman. The Japan External Trade Organization, or JETRO, has also invited seven buyers from around the world.
In the case of Japanese buyers, it seems that many of them will be looking for that something special that stands out from the rest, and some may even be looking to enlist designers for exclusive capsule collections.
“What’s popular right now are new products and partnerships that customers can have fun with, such as collaborations between designers that until now haven’t existed,” Sakai said.
“Despite customers’ deep-seated price consciousness, even if the price is somewhat high if the product has value, they will still buy it,” the Sogo & Seibu spokesman said.