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Boom in Products Targeting Male Consumers (February 12, 2004)

men's shop
The new Isetan store for men
Male-oriented products, ranging from apparel to sports cars, have sold poorly in recent years but are now enjoying a resurgence. Those in the retail and distribution industries have come around to the view that, among individual consumers, products for men are back in style. Rising expectations of higher corporate profits and share prices are persuading men, and especially those around the age of 40, to start spending again. The desire to look good may also be a factor: Increasing numbers of men are buying skin-care products, muscling in on a field that once belonged almost exclusively to women. Sales of men's cosmetics have contributed greatly to the overall surge in male consumption in 2003.

Store Remodeled to Suit Men's Tastes
In 2002 spending by individual consumers, which accounts for roughly 55% of Japan's gross domestic product, was led primarily by working women and middle-aged women. When the Japan Research Institute analyzed 2002 consumer spending patterns, it found that while consumption of female-oriented products, such as women's apparel, had risen by 2.5% from 2001, consumption of goods and services aimed at men had fallen by 4.6%. Figures for the period from April to June 2003, however, show a 9.6% decrease in female-oriented consumption compared with the previous year and a mere 2.5% decrease in male-oriented consumption, suggesting that the downturn in male spending is slowing and that this sector may be about to bottom out.

Indications of a resurgence in interest in men's goods have not escaped the attention of the retail industry. In September, the Isetan department store chain reopened its men's store in Tokyo's Shinjuku district after work to completely remodel the store was finished. The revamped store reflects the notion that male consumers are less interested in brand names than in the individual qualities of a potential purchase: 70% of the floor space is divided not by brand but by product type. On the first floor - where customers' first impressions are formed - brand-name boutiques have been replaced by a single accessories sales space in which products are arranged by type. Similarly, prior to being renovated the suit floor was made up of individual "shops" devoted to specific brands, with walls separating Brooks Brothers from J. Press, for example. Now the walls have come down, and suits of every brand are displayed on one common sales floor. Customers looking for casual suits can now easily browse and compare products of many different brands, and those looking for business suits can do the same. Changes such as these have helped the remodeled men's store get off to a flying start: Sales for the first two months following the reopening were 30% higher than for same period the previous year, exceeding forecasts, and the store's fiscal 2003 sales target has been raised from ¥33 billion to ¥35 billion.

Another Hit: Cosmetics for Men
Men are spending more in other areas, too. The Mazda RX-8, a new sports car, went on the market in May 2003; by August over 10,800 had been sold, exceeding all expectations. Mazda Motor Corp. ascribes the popularity of its new model to the fact that it is both sporty and family-friendly. The RX-8 has four doors, making it easier for a father to persuade his wife and kids that this car is a wise purchase.

Men's consumption of skin-care products has also increased. Motivated not by a desire for physical beauty of the feminine kind but by a determination not to present a greasy or prematurely aged appearance to the world, more and more men say they want healthy, young-looking skin. According to a study conducted by Fuji-Keizai Co., a Tokyo firm engaged in economic research, in 2002 the market for men's basic cosmetic items and facial cleansers grew to ¥12 billion - 4.3% higher than the previous year's figure - despite a decline in sales of hair-grooming products, and this growth is expected to continue. Isetan's men's store is the first department store in Japan to feature a sales floor devoted to men's cosmetics, which were previously relegated to a corner of the women's cosmetics department in the Isetan flagship department store.

Supermarkets and convenience stores are jumping on the men's cosmetics bandwagon. Last year 7 Eleven Japan and Kommy Corp., a Tokyo beauty clinic operator, launched a joint venture to produce and market a new line of men's cosmetics called Men's TBC. Meanwhile, Nivea-Kao, a major cosmetics manufacturer based in Tokyo, is marketing a new line called Nivea for Men. As if that weren't enough, health spas and nail salons, once assumed to be an exclusively female province, are also seeing an increase in male customers. Increased spending in this and other areas indicates that men's interests have expanded beyond the areas traditionally associated with male-oriented consumption.

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Related Web Sites
Mazda Rx-8
Men's TBC (Japanese only)
Nivea-Kao (Japanese only)

Copyright (c) 2004 Web Japan. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.

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