Retail in Asia

In Markets

Fast fashion cuts into Japan’s high-end department stores

Japan’s staid department stores are not evolving quickly enough to cater to the changing spending patterns of Japanese consumers, who have embraced cheaper, more disposable fashions, according to analysts.

The Japanese government data released two weeks ago showed that sales at large scale Japanese retailers fell 4 percent in February compared to the previous year, the 23rd straight monthly fall. Takashimaya Co., Japan’s third largest department store chain by sales, said in March it is withdrawing its namesake stores from the US market and closing down its landmark shop on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.

"Japanese department stores are facing a continuous reduction in demand and they are losing market share to specialty retailers," says Hidehiko Aoki, retail analyst with Bank of America Merrill Lynch in Tokyo. "They have higher costs and much less of a focus on merchandise."

Some are looking to faster growing parts of Asia for answers. Takashimaya is focusing on the Asian market, said spokesman Takeo Yasukawa. It has stores in Singapore and Taipei and is constructing one in Shanghai that will open in 2012. Isetan Mitsukoshi Holdings Ltd – Japan’s largest department store group by sales – is also strengthening its presence in China and is currently building its second store in Tianjin.