Emerging Consumer Markets in Japan

Susan P. Douglas, New York University
ABSTRACT - Japan has traditionally been characterized as a homogeneous - society (Aaker, Fuse and Reynolds 1982, Christopher 1983, Lazer, Murata and Kosaka 1985, Nakane 1970). Income differentials between the lowest and the highest income groups have tended to be small, and there are relatively minor regional differences. The population is predominantly urban, crowded into a small geographic area. But perhaps most significant, traditional values have emphasized group conformity or hitonami, resulting in concern among Japanese to be perceived like others and to live according to the expectations of those around them (Fields 1983, Hakuholdo Institute of Life and Living 1983).
[ to cite ]:
Susan P. Douglas (1987) ,"Emerging Consumer Markets in Japan", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 14, eds. Melanie Wallendorf and Paul Anderson, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 392-393.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 14, 1987      Pages 392-393

EMERGING CONSUMER MARKETS IN JAPAN

Susan P. Douglas, New York University

ABSTRACT -

Japan has traditionally been characterized as a homogeneous - society (Aaker, Fuse and Reynolds 1982, Christopher 1983, Lazer, Murata and Kosaka 1985, Nakane 1970). Income differentials between the lowest and the highest income groups have tended to be small, and there are relatively minor regional differences. The population is predominantly urban, crowded into a small geographic area. But perhaps most significant, traditional values have emphasized group conformity or hitonami, resulting in concern among Japanese to be perceived like others and to live according to the expectations of those around them (Fields 1983, Hakuholdo Institute of Life and Living 1983).

In recent years, however, a number of changes have been taking place in Japanese society, resulting in the emergence of new values and growing social diversification (Izeki 1986). As income levels have risen, certain sectors of the population have experienced a significant increase in discretionary income. At the same time, as material standards of living have risen, the struggle to keep up with others in terms of material possessions such as a refrigerator, a color TV or a car, has been replaced by a desire to improve the quality of life and a search for self-fulfillment (Kakita 1985). A shift in hitonami consciousness has thus begun to take place, resulting in a de-emphasis of traditional values and the emergence of greater individuality and freedom of self expression.

Such changes are, however, primarily manifest in certain areas of daily life such as work, diet, leisure activities and clothing (Hakuhodo Institute of Life and Living 1983, Nakazawa 1985). In relation to work for example, there is a growing emphasis on personal goals and achievement as opposed to company objectives. Similarly, in food consumption and leisure activities there is little concern with what others do and think and hence, here again signs of diversity and individuality are emerging (Nakazawa 1985). But in other areas of life, such as gift giving, formal occasions and social life, hitonami consciousness and concern with social acceptance and approval still remain strong (Aburatani 1985).

Parallel to such developments, a number of new consumer markets have begun to emerge. Two, which have aroused particular attention, are working wives and young single adults. In recent years, an increasing number of married women have moved into the work force, - many seeking part-time employment as a means of supplementing family income. Similarly, the significance of the young adult market has grown as a result of rising birth rates in the late 60s, and the postponement of marriage by both male and female. Both these markets constitute attractive targets for marketers due to their relatively high discretionary income.

WORKING WIVES

The proportion of married women in the labor force has increased dramatically over the past two decades. By 1984, married women accounted for over 60% of the women employed as compared with less than 40% in 1976 (Ministry of Labor 1984). While some of this new source of income is reserved for family expenditures such as mortgage payments, children's education or eating out in family restaurants, many married women tend to view the money they earn as personal pin money. It is thus earmarked for items such as cosmetics, stockings, etc. as well as social and leisure activities outside the home such as eating out with friends in coffee shops or participation in culture clubs and centers.

In particular, concern with health and fitness has stimulated increasing interest in sports activities and fitness classes, including tennis, aerobics etc. (Hakuhodo Institute of Life and Living 1984). Furthermore, since many married women lack confidence in their intellectual abilities often they seek to improve themselves through studying and attending classes at the culture centers. -Travel and day-trips are another important interest. Here, they often go in groups or accompanied by other female friends. Thus, married women have become a key market not only for traditional household items such as prepared foods, frozen main dishes, take out foods and cleaning services, but also for culture and leisure activities and both domestic and foreign travel.

YOUNG ADULTS (SINGLES)

Young singles have also emerged as an important market segment. Not only have they increased in size and purchasing power, but also they have begun to break away from the traditional values of Japanese society and define their own life patterns. Since the vast majority still live with their parents and make little or no contribution to family household expenditures, they tend to have a substantial discretionary income. This is spent primarily on personal items, though interestingly a relatively high proportion goes to savings, predominantly for marriage. Among males, the major expenditure is food and drink, making them prime targets for the restaurant and entertainment markets as well as alcoholic beverages. In the case of women, appearance is a key item resulting in heavy expenditures on cosmetics and toiletries as well as expensive fashion items such as handbags and fur coats, etc.

Leisure activities are also an important outlet for both sexes, given their lack of family responsibilities. While much of their leisure time is spent socializing with others in coffee shops, bars and other locales, listening to music and watching TV also rate high on their priority list. Outdoor activities such as skiing, tennis, and increasingly golf are also popular, while interest in overseas travel appears to be growing, especially among females.

Young singles also tend to be highly receptive to new ideas whether for new products, new brands or new services such as credit cards, direct marketing, etc. Furthermore, they can be effectively reached via T.V. advertising or magazines targeted to either or both sexes such as Focus, Friday and Pia. They also tend to patronize particular stores and shopping areas. Seibu is frequently cited as their favorite department store. Parco and harui are also popular. Book stores are another favorite haunt while convenience stores are frequently patronized for food and other items. Consequently, young adults are not only an attractive market but also one which is readily accessible, and hence often constitute E prime target for the introduction of innovative new products and services.

REFERENCES

Aaker, David A., Yasuyoshi Fuse and Fred D. Reynolds (1982), 'Is Life-style Research Limited in Its Usefulness to Japanese Advertisers?" Journal of Advertising vol. II no. 1.

Aburatani, Jan, (1985), "Profile of the Japanese Consumer, Dentsu Japan Marketing/Advertising Winter (vol III no 7, 4-7.

Christopher, Robert T. (1983), The Japanese Mind, New York" The Linten Press.

"Expected Changes in Consumer Life" (1981), Dentsu Japan Marketing/Advertising (January).

Fields, George (1983), From Bonsai to Levi's, New York: Macmillan.

Hakuhodo Institute of Life and Living (1983), Hitonami: Keeping Up With the Satos, Tokyo: Hakuhodo Institute of Life and Living.

Hakuhodo Institute of Life and Living (1984), Japanese Women in Turmoil, Tokyo: Hakuholdo Institute of Life and Living.

Hakuhodo Institute of Life and Living (1985), Young Adults in Japan, Tokyo: Hakuhodo Institute of Life and Living.

Izeki, Toshiaki (1986), "Changing Patterns of Consumer Life-style in the Age of Marketing III," Tokyo: mimeographed.

Kakita, Toshizumi (1985), "Consumer's Behavior Changing in Many Ways, Dentsu Japan Marketing/Advertising Winter (vol III no. 1) 9-12.

Lazer, William, Shoji Murata, and Hiroshi Kosaka (1985), "Japanese Marketing: Towards a Better Understanding," Journal of Marketing vol 49 Spring, 69-81.

Ministry of Labor (1984), Report on Working Women.

Nakane, Chie (1970), Japanese Society , Berkeley: University of California Press.

Nakazawa, Masanobu (1985), "Japan's Consumer Revolution," Journal of Japanese Trade and Industry, 24-26.

Prime Minister's Office (1984), Labor Force Survey.

----------------------------------------