Raw Japan

Slices of Japanese business, politics and life

Discounting Japan

February 19, 2009

As Japan’s economy slips back towards deflation, the country’s price-cut kings are raking it in. The latest Forbes wealthiest list for Japan was headed by those running companies offering discount clothes, discount shoes, discount broking, discount drugs – and for people without the funds to take advantage of all the discounts — a consumer lender at far-from-discount interest rates. 

Forbes said the nation’s richest man was Tadashi Yanai, worth $6.1 billion and quarter owner of seemingly recession-proof clothing retailer Uniqlo. Yanai saw a $1.4 billion jump in his fortune after a huge surge in company shares despite the economy shrinking faster than it has in decades. 

JAPANMasahiro Miki, founder of discount shoe chain, ABC Mart, Chizuko and Michio Matsui of the eponymous on-line brokerage, and the Kinoshita brothers of lender Acom, rounded out the small list of those increasing their wealth last year in the world’s No.2 economy, which appears to be going through its longest recession on record.

The Tada brothers, who run discount chain SunDrug, and Akio Nitori of the same-name discount home furnishing retailer also made the Top 40, as disposable income was disposed of ever more cheaply.

Overall, though, the pie of Japan’s 40 wealthiest shrank from $89.5 billion in May to $69 billion, Forbes said. Former Nintendo Chairman Hiroshi Yamauchi saw his fortune dwindle by $1.2 billion as shares in the maker of hit products like the DS and Wii tumbled, knocking Yamauchi from the top spot down to No.3.

Uniqlo has been called Japan’s Gap, although its total sales are far behind the U.S. giant. Nonetheless, Yanai’s wealth now exceeds that of Gap founder Donald Fisher and family, Forbes said.


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