Raw Japan

Slices of Japanese business, politics and life

Denim deflation


James Dean smouldered in his, the Marlboro men looked rugged in theirs, and now me and hordes of other Japanese people can feel frugal in ours. Jeans — practical, durable and with just a hint of  rebelliousness — are at the centre of a price war in Japan, as struggling retailers look to lure cash-strapped customers back through their doors.

With the country slipping deeper into deflation and its jobless rate rising, shops have for some time been marking down almost everything from bags of cereal,  to laundry detergent and bicycles.

But curiously it is jeans that have emerged as a symbol of this deflationary race as major retailers roll out dirt-cheap denim in bids to undercut each other.

RETAIL JAPAN FASTRETAILINGFast Retailing, which operates the Uniqlo casual fashion chain, started the phenomenon in March when it said it it would start flogging jeans for 990 yen (about $11) a pair at its g.u. stores.