KOBE QUAKE WON’T HALT IMPORTS FROM U.S., BUT SALES MAY LANGUISH IN WAKE OF DISASTER
Byline: Tsukasa Furukawa
TOKYO — Shipments of fashion apparel and accessories into Japan from the U.S. and Europe, virtually all of which are air-freighted, should be able to come in undisrupted by the earthquake devastation at Kobe Port, according to importers.
However, the assessment is only one slight bit of bright news in the otherwise dim outlook for apparel business in the wake of the Jan. 16 quake.
Importers said fashion apparel for spring selling starts coming in from Europe and the U.S. in February, and some are asking European suppliers to hold shipments until the situation in Kobe becomes more clear. Moreover, some importers voiced apprehension that the earthquake may chill the mood of consumers not only in Kobe but in Osaka and Tokyo.
Air-freighted shipments arrive at newly built Kansai International Airport near Osaka and are cleared through customs in Osaka, said an executive at Yagi Tsusho Ltd., a leading importer of fashion apparel.
“Shipments to or from China and other Asian markets may be shipped by sea,” the executive said. “But 99 percent of fashion goods imported to Japan come by air.”
Also noting that most fashion goods from Europe are shipped to Japan by air, an executive at Itochu Corp., another leading textile and apparel importer, added: “But we have lost sales floors to sell those goods even if they arrive.” He cited the severe damage to many of Kobe’s department stores, including Sogo, Daimaru and Hankyu, and noted specifically that the Motomachi shopping center in Kobe, which sells a heavy concentration of European and American designer brands, was hard hit.
“The town looks like it was bombed by missiles,” he said. “Even those buildings that stand have to be checked for safety. It will take some time before fashion apparel business comes back to Kobe.”
Meanwhile, Kobe Trade Mart, which was spared by the earthquake, remains closed, because of water and gas outages and damaged piping.
“We don’t know when we will reopen,” a spokesman for the showroom facility said, noting that timing depends on when the water and gas supplies resume.
Located on Rokko Island, a man-made island off Kobe, the trade center houses more than 200 Japanese apparel companies, the executive said. — Fairchild News Service