JAPAN REGROUPS

Byline: Koji Hirano

TOKYO — Trade shows in Japan are trying to find ways to lead the nation’s industries out of the long-lasting recession.
For manufacturers here, the shows are a chance to get more information on consumer markets and meet new buyers, while retailers are on the prowl for unique products. Key words for the upcoming round of trade shows are: cost-effective, reaching overseas buyers, lively negotiation and high tech presentation.
Under the economic slowdown, Japanese exhibitors and buyers find no merit in “annual merrymaking exhibitions just for fun, which were allowed before the nation’s bubble economy collapsed,” as one industry executive put it.
Last year, imported apparel reached the record-high volume of 2.44 billion units, up 21 percent from a year earlier. On a yen basis, imports dropped 4 percent. This means there was more inexpensive casualwear imported, and “the more apparel imported from overseas, the more severe the situation becomes for the domestic manufacturing industries,” said one analyst.
Some of the major exhibitions decided not to hold shows this year. Outerwear Tokyo, produced by Fur & Fashion Frankfurt Messe’s Japan Office, did not hold a show this year, and no announcement for next year has been made, according to the office.
One of the new wave to meet the demand of the industry is textile fair Japan Creation. This year, Japan Creation is being held at one of the hottest convention centers here, Tokyo Big Sight, and will expand show space by about 50 percent compared with last year.
At this fourth edition, more than 50,000 visitors are expected, according to the organizer’s office. Last year, 608 buyers came from overseas “but most of them were from Asia.
Next, a semiannual casualwear show held at Sunshine City Convention Center was started this year in response to consumer demand for the category in Japan.
“We have been holding Active Collection, presenting from surfboard to snowboard wear, and found the need for the casualwear exhibition,” said Ken Suzuki of the executive committee of the trade show.
In the last exhibition, held March 14-16 this year, 43 domestic firms, including manufacturers, importers and product-development companies, attended the show.
At Japantex, an annual home textile exhibition in Tokyo Big Sight, “visitors from overseas are increasing, with some signs of recovery,” said Ken Furihata, marketing director.
At the U.S. Pavilion of Japantex, a virtual trade show attracted buyers’ attention. There, 16 companies in the U.S. could be reached through the Internet.
“Buyers here can take a look at patterns of fabrics, and if they like one, they can order the sample fabrics via e-mail,” explained Lawrence J. Brill, international trade specialist for the U.S. Department of Commerce, when interviewed at the show this year.
“The high tech approach may be much cheaper for overseas exhibitors to come to Japan with a lot of samples and rent space,” said one industry executive. “But satisfactory negotiation will not be expected with a few investments. Especially in this country, face-to-face negotiation is still important.”
Although old business customs still exist, “recently we see more Japanese exhibitors and buyers from the young generation,” said the executive. “They like making quick decisions instead of slow business talk. They will change the way trade shows here operate.”