Made in Japan' not so big in Japan

Made in Japan' not so big in Japan
Uniqlo, a popular Japanese brand.

Mr Makoto Miyazaki swears by the made-in-Japan office furniture he sells at a store in Tokyo's suburban ward of Taito.

"They are better than the China-made ones as they are more solidly built," he said.

But despite his spirited attempts at explaining to customers why they should pay about 30 to 50 per cent more for a Japan-made cabinet, it is those that were made in China that fly off the shelves, leading to a three-month wait in some cases.

It would not cheer Mr Miyazaki, who is in his 40s, to know he is not alone in facing this problem - a growing number of Japanese consumers are looking beyond products made here at home, separate surveys have shown.

Price was the overriding factor in buying decisions for 61 per cent of about 7,000 who responded to a survey by the Consumer Affairs Agency of Japan published in July.

Mr Nobuyuki Ota, executive managing director at Matsuya, a major department store in Tokyo, has a different take on the issue.

The problem, he said, is that sales staff are not doing enough to explain the merits of Japan-made goods to shoppers. "Sales staff generally just apologise... for the higher prices of goods in the department store when they should be explaining why the goods are better," he said in an interview.

Retailers need to train their staff to emphasise the strong selling points of Japan-made goods, such as the better materials used, to show why they command higher prices, he added.

But the trend has been a few years in the making. The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (Meti) warned in 2010 of the waning appeal of the kokusan, or locally made, labels in commanding higher prices.

Consumers who once bought only made-in-Japan appliances and products were not as particular any more, the ministry said in a report. Even food buyers, long seen as inured to the higher prices of Japanese-grown produce, are switching allegiance.

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