Japan – More than Bonsai and Chrysanthemums

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Japan – More than Bonsai and Chrysanthemums

By John Stanley Japan with a population of 127 million, most of whom are congregated along the eastern side of the main island, is an intensive market. Traditionally known for Japanese gardens, bonsai and chrysanthemums, the market is now expanding as the population becomes more demanding. In October I had the opportunity to speak at the IFEX Conference just outside Toyko and also the opportunity to look at the garden market. Perhaps the term garden market is the wrong term to use. With the majority of the market living in apartments, it is an intensive horticultural market, but there are always trends and developments to monitor. IFEX 2006 The annual trade show is always a good place to start as this allows you to look at the developments in the industry in one day in one room. Australia was evident at the show on three stands with promotion of the Jussaic Tree, The Wollemi Pine, a display of native flora from The Australian Flower Export Council and a selection of Aussie breed exotics. But my main aim was to discover what was new that I could share with my clients. The first big surprise was to discover that the style of retail benching used in Japan is the same as in the UK with the hexagonal and three tier bench proving to be most popular. Benching is essential to any horticultural business success and the style used is tending to be similar around the world at present. The Japanese garden is smaller than in most countries and I was impressed with Pieds Nus developing this theme at a retail level with their �Living Garden – Set the stage for pleasant times with refined furnishing� Here is a garden furniture company integrating a number of products to sell a picture to the consumer. It worked for me and this was one of the busier stands at the show. It continues to emphasise that we have to sell the story not the product. This theme was continued with Lechuza, the Spanish container company who exhibited with their Japanese partner Matsuo. I love some of their publicity as a container company, they use terms such as: �Growing excitement for exciting growth� �Your future decisions will always have successful roots� � Minimise to the maximum� Both these companies understand their true consumer and are pushing a message through the supply chain. New from Japan But are there any trends coming out of Japan that we can pick up on? The following is worth monitoring: Preserved flowers have been with us for a long time. Linda, my wife, and myself got involved with them over 20 years ago, but the development has come a long way and a number of Japanese companies are developing high quality products. As with most things, the processing is happening in China and the raw product is sent to Japan for adding value. I was very impressed with the roses coming from Splendore and I�m sure we will see a resurgence in this type of product in the future. In many markets the hardware companies and supermarkets have taken the aquatic market away from garden centre. One reason for this is they have been able to package water plants often better than independent retailers. I was therefore pleased to see a great added value water lily display come from �Christ Gardening� where a water lily package has been taken out of the pond and transferred to a container garden. With increasing sales within this category, there must be an opportunity for this type of product. �Nobus Design�, for me was the most intriguing. They have developed the Table garden. Miniature gardens that are up-market table decorations. I realize this will appeal to the Japanese mind, but it must have an opportunity in the wider market place. I like the idea that it competes directly with wine, flowers and chocolates as a gift. It is a unique opportunity for a retailer to provide a point of difference. �Vacation Gardening� identified a global trend in the garden marketplace. They provided garden packages for the vacation gardener. A garden that could be put in place and look good just for the vacation. A look good now garden that will be ripped out for the winter when the holiday maker has gone home. A concept well worth considering. The same company also idenified children as a key market and developed Barbie doll packages as gifts for children. But What is Happening on the Streets? Traveling around Japan is not an easy exercise if you are on your own and do not speak the language. My travels were therefore restricted to around Toyko and therefore my comments have to be restricted to that region of the country. I found that the industry was fairly traditional. Yet as is the case in many countries at present the indoor living retailers are moving forward at a rapid rate. The most frightening trend for independent retailers is to see companies like Natural Zakka moving into the garden market. This company, like a few others I visited started off with in indoor non living ornaments and have realized their customer is now looking for living home decorations. They are identifying this market as a trend market that is expanding and they are now moving into living fashion at a rapid rate. The one store I visited was on the outskirts of Soga, a Tokyo suburb. They had changed the floor covering in the first third of their shop to a wooden floor and had allocated this area to living product displayed as a fashion product. As you can imagine price was not an issue with the product sold. They had a guaranteed customer flow, in fact next door was a Starbuck�s coffee shop. Which meant that the main target market was already using the area as a destination. A lesson that keeps coming across is that we do have a global market and that means the pressures on retailers are becoming the same around the world. Check out the newsagents in Japan and you will find lifestyle magazines from around the world on the shelf. A trend in Paris is now becoming a global trend overnight. Retailers who fail to keep up with these trends are left exposed in the market place and have no choice but to start competing on price which is a downhill spiral John Stanley is a conference speaker and retail consultant with over 25 years experience in 15 countries. John works with retailers around the world assisting them with their merchandising, staff and management training, customer flow, customer service and image. www.johnstanley.cc