Slices of Japanese business, politics and life
Deflation? Don’t blame me
The president of Aeon bristles at the suggestion that he’s partly the reason for deflation in Japan, as the country’s No.2 retailer and its rivals slash prices to snag yen-pinching shoppers.
“It’s stupid. They don’t know anything,” Motoya Okada told a group of reporters, when asked about a recent magazine article that criticised Aeon, budget fashion chain Uniqlo and other retailers for a price war that, the story argues, only hurts the economy by squeezing profits and wages.
“Japanese people are getting poorer and poorer. Unless their incomes rise, there’s nothing they can do about it,” said Okada, whose company has been marking down prices sharply to reinvigorate sales at its Jusco supermarkets and other general merchandising stores — all-in-one stores that sell everything from food to clothing to electronics.
Expressing frustration with accusations that he’s partly responsible for deflation, Okada reminisced about the good old days of barbecued eel, a traditional Japanese delicacy.
“Once upon a time, every supermarket’s fish section competed to sell barbecued eel, creating a new market,” he said.
“Before that, we could eat barbecued eel only at restaurants. But people became able to have it at home, it was a revolutionary thing. Do you call this deflation?” he said, adding that the same barbecued eel selling for around 2,000 yen at restaurants goes for about 400 yen at supermarkets.
“If we did this now, we would be accused of accelerating deflation and media would say it’s the end of the barbecued eel tradition,” he said.