When the pandemic hit, many overseas brands put plans for Japan on hold and local distributors also paused new signings while waiting to see what would happen. With an end in sight and home markets still quiet, more brands are coming to Japan again, particularly in the outdoor and sports categories.
A host of new deals have been signed between Japanese distributors and overseas brands in recent months as optimism rises that consumers will start spending on fashion again.
Yagi Tsusho has agreed an exclusive distribution deal with the French outdoor brand, K-Way. Distribution will start later this year through Yagi’s Supremes subsidiary. Owned by Basic Net since 2004, K-Way has 28 of its own stores in France and 29 in Italy and the first stand-alone store in Japan will open on Meiji-Dori in Shibuya this summer. Yagi expects sales of JPY 3 billion (US$ 25.9 million) a year in five years. Yagi has a strong track record in developing brands with a long heritage such as Mackintosh, Moncler, Barbour and Alexandre de Paris, particularly through investment in well-located stores and via online malls, and is likely to do the same with K-Way.
Look, a competitor to Yagi Tsusho in imported brand distribution, has signed an exclusive distribution agreement with another outdoor brand, Holubar Mountaineering of the US. Sales will also start from this Autumn. Holubar was founded in 1947 in Colorado and became famous for supplying the jacket worn by Robert de Niro in the film, The Deer Hunter. The US brand is already sold in select shops and other outlets in Japan but Look will invest in stores and expansion of wholesaling to take advantage of the current boom in outdoor fashions.
It is not just brands but also retail concepts being brought to Japan. This summer, trading firm Sojitz will open a Japanese store for the US retailer, Showfields. Showfields opened its first store in the Noho area of New York in 2018, a showroom (retail-as-a-service) store, exhibiting direct to consumer (D2C) fashion brands and art with all sales made online. Since then it has added stores in Miami and Los Angeles. As well as the first test store, which will be around 300 square metres, Sojitz will open a 1,200 square metres flagship before March 2023. The Japanese stores will focus on exhibiting US D2C brands selected by Showfields but later on add Japanese brands. As with the US stores, all sales will be handled via phones with delivery direct from warehouse to home. Sojitz says it sees a strong future for stockless stores in Japan, citing the increase in showroom stores by other fashion brands and even department stores – such as Seibu’s Choosebase Shibuya and Daimaru Tokyo’s Tomorrow – as well as the success of stores like B8TA which opened its third Japanese store recently.
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While most distribution deals have traditionally been done with retailers and wholesalers, online firms are also beginning to source brands directly. Online mall, Locondo, has just signed an agreement with UK sportswear brand, Castore. This is actually Locondo’s second direct distribution agreement, having signed the Spanish brand Mango in 2016. Established in 2015, Castore is a premium D2C sportswear brand that has grown rapidly, with sales to 50 countries, helped by its various collaborations, including with car firm McLaren. Locondo will sell Castore on its own mall, on Sports Web Shoppers, an online store acquired two years ago, as well as wholesale the brand to other retailers. Locondo recently launched its own sports brand with Youtuber and pro golfer, Gaku Nakai.
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