Not in the clamor of the crowded street, not in the shouts and plaudits of the throng, but in ourselves, are triumph and defeat.--Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

REDIRECT ALERT! (Scroll down past this mess if you're trying to read an archived post. Thanks. No, really, thanks.)

Due to my inability to control my temper and complacently accept continued silliness with not-quite-as-reliable-as-it-ought-to-be Blogger/Blogspot, your beloved Possumblog will now waddle across the Information Dirt Road and park its prehensile tail at http://possumblog.mu.nu.

This site will remain in place as a backup in case Munuvia gets hit by a bus or something, but I don't think they have as much trouble with this as some places do. ::cough::blogspot::cough:: So click here and adjust your links. I apologize for the inconvenience, but it's one of those things.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Well, duh--Wal-Mart a hit with Japanese shoppers

[...] Since the store 60 miles southwest of Tokyo opened April 7, people have been lured by its sheer size.

"If a big store like that opens, it's really convenient for the residents," said Koichi Watanabe, a community leader who oversaw town meetings to discuss the Supercenter. "The aisles are roomy. The whole place is made for easy shopping."

Compared to old-style Japanese stores with a mishmash of merchandise crowding the shelves, the towering aisles here are filled with rows and rows of similar products ? soda, sneakers, frying pans.

The American look is to new to most Japanese. Bold signs that read "shoes" or "toys" hang from above to direct shoppers to the right aisles, and a moving walkway takes shoppers with their giant carts to a rooftop parking lot. A massive single-floor store like the Supercenter is so unusual that benches had to be placed in some spots to accommodate Japanese who complained they needed a rest.

Shoppers like Eri Hiraiwa can't get enough.

"It's great the prices are affordable," the cosmetics company employee said, studying a knit top that sells for 997 yen, the equivalent of $9.24. "This would cost 2,000 yen ($20) in other stores, and I love it that it's cheaper than 1,000 yen ($10)." [...]

I realize some folks don't like Wal-Mart because of its notable impact on small merchants who try to compete solely on price. But it's probably worth remembering that the same indictment was made against mail-order giants Sears, Roebuck and Montgomery Ward before the turn of the century, who were able to use their buying power (and marketing savvy) to supply goods more cheaply than they could be purchased locally. This is probably going to turn out to be true in Japan also, with its notoriously maddening distribution system layered with middlemen and regulation, in turn creating artificially high prices.

One obvious difference is that Japanese consumers have never been accustomed to buying large bulk purchases of food or dry goods (like Americans like me who buy 24 double rolls of toilet paper at a time), having relied on small purchases on an as-needed basis. Part of this is culture, and part simply a matter of smaller living spaces that don't have large areas set aside for storage. Still, taking out several layers of redundancy should make the job of selling the merchandise (in whatever quantities) less of an obstacle. The fact that serious competitors for Wal-Mart have quickly sprung up means even greater pressure on the old system, especially once consumers get used to the idea they don't have to pay double prices for the same goods.

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