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Japan|Is Anyone Hopeful After Seeing the Front Pages of Oct. 26 Senken Newspaper?

Nov 6, 2018.Ichiro KumegawaTokyo, JP
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Above, is the front pages of Friday, Oct. 26 Senken Newspaper. The aim of a trade newspaper is to provide an informative situation of a country’s growth and bring change. If it’s Senken newspapers, it should have viable facts about the Japanese textile and fashion. Should it be an international trade newspaper, it would aim to deliver on a global scale.

"Top apparel companies must be cautious when reporting negative press, as it will greatly affect consumers and the industry.” says a source from a trade newspaper desk. In short, consumption is influenced by mood. It’s that feeling when you tell yourself, ‘I’ll shop till I drop because the economy is booming’. Almost like Halloween when youths head out to Shibuya to be boisterous, angry mobs for a day. Perhaps not a fair analogy when comparing it to “serious consumers”.

Let’s take a moment to think about “serious consumers”. Looking at the graph on the Japanese average annual income from 1997 to 2015, (Source: National Survey of National Salary Salaries Survey), there’s a decrease from 4.65 million yen to 4.2 million yen. It’s approximately a staggering 37,000 yen per month. Although it appears in the past 6 years abenomics[1] seem to be rising, it’s difficult to shake off the deflationary mind when we’re already knee deep to the point that we have long given up.

In this state, will it be possible for consumers to spend their incomes in fashion and apparel seeing as the average income is low ? Quoting an individual who works in the industry, he says that "Looking at the stability of the fast fashion consumption from the last two years, it feels that fashion consumption surges are about to come to an end." Which is a fairly optimistic remark that reflects how this industry is still a little naive.

Consumers no longer buying fast fashion and are now into high-end products, when in fact, is far from the truth. Consumers now rarely buy any apparel in general. This Senken newspaper front page in bold letters reads,"Many Apparel Companies Agree that Fashion Expenditures are Improving. However The Trends Tell a Different Story”. The article does neither harm nor good and is just a conjecture coming from an old-timer who’s sat too long in the industry.

I understand that it seems people will likely say ask what I’m trying to accomplish by spreading more pessimism. But this graph shows the average annual income trends that reflects the current state of consumption trends considerably.

The two outcomes perpetuate the so-called abenomics after the Abe cabinet had emerged in December 2012, shows a decline in unemployment rates and the rise in the Nikkei Stock Average. However, the average annual income is about an 100,000 yen increase. Compared to the annual income of 700,000 yen lost to the golden ages 20 years ago, there shows no impact. In this situation, it’s quite difficult to ask consumers of over 40 years of age to become consumers of fashion.

Other than the fact that there’s a possibility among those who have a considerable increase of income after the Lehman Shock in 2008. In other words, many brands are targeting at the generations 30 and above.

And what makes it possible to develop products for that generation is that there are still companies developing products specifically for these generations. I wonder if these companies are a driving force in this industry even though they still feel a little unsteady. If the old timers in the industry don’t step their game up and find a way to effectively pass the baton to the next young gens, things don’t seem too bright in the future. With that being said, I have high hopes for the future post-Lehman generations of companies and entrepreneurs.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s three-pronged approach, dubbed “Abenomics” launched in 2013, combines fiscal expansion, monetary easing, and structural reforms in hopes of revitalizing the economic stature of Japan.