Retail in Japan: a visitor’s impression

I’m just back from Japan. One of the first things to hit me was how different the shops were. Being a sad case I took a few snaps to share with the team. Here’s my tourist with a smartphone view on Japanese retail.

Limited space: crowded floor to ceiling fixtures and loads of POS in electricals and chemists, and telescoping shelves in the 7-11 chiller.

Lack of space

Crammed fixtures in electricals and chemists, extendable shelves at the 7-11

Will it vend? It must vend! Vending machines abound. Beer, cigarettes, drinks, newspapers… How about champagne and fruit? You can even pay with your Oyster card in the station.

Vending champagne - why not? Pics courtesy of Inside Japan Tours

Vending champagne – why not? Pics courtesy of Inside Japan Tours

Different norms on ranges: This is an Island nation with a parallel development cycle for products (Galapagos Syndrome) – including 15 varieties of Kit Kats and a lemon variant of Orangina, Lemongina.

The ones that stood out for me were at convenience store Lawson:

  • The on-the-go hot drinks fixture with too many coffee cans to count;
  • The standalone energy drinks / vitamin drinks fixture;
  • All the clothing you’d ever need if you had just pulled an all-nighter and needed to stay in the office (vest, shirt, underwear, tie)
Hot drinks and energy / vitamin drinks fixtures at Lawson Hakone

Hot drinks and energy / vitamin drinks fixtures at Lawson Hakone

 Value retailing is prevalent here too: The 100 yen store (c50p) and the 300 yen store (c£1.50). Lots of Halloween promotions here – their masks and facepaints looked pretty awesome. Daiso is a good example and had neat, well stocked shelves – it didn’t feel like a jumble sale.

Presentation / attention to detail: I’d anticipated beautiful bento boxes arranged with military precision. Fruit was the only food that was expensive. This market stall presented in Tokyo had individually shrink wrapped items, and I stumbled across a 25 quid presentation box in a department store (a “branded fruit gift” I was told).


Market stall, fruit presentation box and sushi bento boxes

Some packaging surprises: sake in juice boxes, cartons, glass cans, bottles

Sake packaging 4 ways

Sake packaging 4 ways

Surprisingly there was little digtal POS: staff ratios seemed better than UK stores

Digital POS

My favourite shop? Don Quijote, an Aladdin’s Cave discounter selling everything from groceries to electricals to clothes. Open 24/7 in Shinjuku.

Don Quijote Asakusa

About Simon Shaw

I'm a Director at an insight consultancy. I'm interested in marketing, market research & consumer psychology. The views expressed are not necessarily those of my employer.
This entry was posted in Customer Experience, Retail and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Retail in Japan: a visitor’s impression

  1. Mchan says:

    did you see that Don Quichote actually GIVES you money to pay for your shopping? They have a box full of 1 yen coins and you can take 4 to use to pay ! Amazing!

  2. Pingback: Shopping in Japan | What is behavioral?

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