British Brands Big in Japan

Posted on 16 March 2014 in Market Insight -
Herdy-made to make you smile-in Otoya Stationery Store

I have just recently spent 10 days in Japan for the first time in 16 years and naturally spent some of my time looking around the shops in Tokyo and Yokohama and was very interested to see the amount of British  products doing well over there. I work with British companies to inform them about the Japanese market and often use case studies and examples to help British businesses learn about their specific markets and consumer behaviour in Japan. So it was very encouraging to see lots of favourite household names doing well over there, some possibly better than they do here and in some cases being marketed in fairly different ways to suit the Japanese market.

First off was my stay in a very posh district in Yokohama overlooking the bay:a true haven for shoppers with plush shopping malls housing all the big names. However,what struck me how our favourite high street shops such as H&M, Top Shop and Next (which interestingly enough had a massive Union Jack in its window) were positioned alongside these high end shops and fitted in perfectly. Even Kit Kat, that once British brand and let’s be honest fairly bog-standard addition to any sweet shop counter has it’s own up-market counter at Seibu department store attracting queues to buy unique Japanese flavours such as matcha and sakura. This was all done in very Japanese style with luxurious packaging and plays well into the Japanese obsession with gift giving. Admittedly, I bought into it and purchased several for friends back home.

I also noticed some smaller British brands were positioned in very interesting settings: Belvoir Cordials was in Seibu department store not in the food and drink section but on a special display with healthy products-I was politely reprimanded for taking a photo of it but hopefully the picture will show how it was marketed as a luxurious, healthy product. In Itoya, one of Tokyo’s biggest stationery shops, Herdy, a small company from the Lake District selling cute sheep mugs and products had its products positioned right in the entrance. This small company seems to have hit the “kawaii” market right on target. Interestingly, Shaun the Sheep is apparently incredibly popular on merchandise, even amongst adults-my ex-boss’s wife proudly showed me her Shaun the Sheep purse!!

british cordials

Belvoir Cordials- interesting product placement in Seibu

Herdy-made to make you smile-in Otoya Stationery Store

Herdy-made to make you smile-in Otoya Stationery Store


Union Jack on a traditional kimono "obi"

Union Jack on a traditional kimono “obi”

Overall, I was very impressed with how British brands were being marketed in Japan and equated with quality-my favourite spot of all was an “obi” covered with union jacks in a very high class kimono shop window in Ginza-I wish I could afford to buy it!

Please contact me if you wish to comment on this or discuss your product in relation to the Japanese market.

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