Slices of Japanese business, politics and life
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.
Japanese retailers reported mostly dismal first-half earnings results, with the industry stuck in a slump as shoppers remain reluctant to open their wallets even as the economy emerges from recession.
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.
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.