Raw Japan

Slices of Japanese business, politics and life

Pet love, vanity help firms survive recession

August 4, 2009

Japanese consumers are getting more penny-pinching by the day, and they’re probably not going to be splashing out more freely anytime soon after wage earners’ take-home pay logged the biggest drop on record in the year to June and people’s summer bonuses took a hefty cut.

But no matter how bleak things get, there will always be some companies that shoppers — however closely they’re guarding their wallets — don’t hesitate to throw precious money at. 

One such is Unicharm Petcare, a Japanese maker of pet food and animal care products. Its dog and cat food products are selling so well that its operating profit leaped 42 percent in the April-June period, and it raised its forecast for the year to next March.

“Pets are part of the family, so pet owners are unlikely to cut back spending on them just because of a recession,” a company official told me. They certainly are family, and it could be a case of “two legs good, four legs better” because while some family members have to put up with cheap beer-like drinks and outdated clothes, their furry relatives get fed “gourmet” food and other products specially tailored for obese or aged pets.

JAPAN-COSMETICS/Meanwhile, young men worried about their oily skin and sweaty armpits are driving up profits at Mandom Corp. The men’s cosmetics maker known for “Gatsby” hair wax and gel raised its six-month profit forecast after it saw sales of both facial paper and antiperspirant jump 30 percent.

“A growing number of young men pay more attention to their appearance and skin care,” said a Mandom official. He added that the market is expected to grow further as “only” a quarter of men in their teens and 20s are using facial paper now.

It’s tempting to be cynical, but the bottom line seems to be that pet-love and vanity can help ride out any recession.

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