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Our mission is to unmask Japan to reveal the real consumer truths

Fashion, cosmetics and grooming markets proving to be “not for women only”

By: Debbie Howard

Most marketing efforts related to fashion, cosmetics and grooming in Japan are directed toward women, but it looks as though men are gaining in importance as a potential target that several companies have recognized, and with which they are realizing success.

The most recent example is the new Hankyu Men’s Tokyo store, located in increasingly fashionable Yurakucho, and just having opened on October 15, 2011. The store caters to males aged in their late 20s to 40s, and features 9 floors of “all things male.” These include expected items such as “men’s accessories” (shoes, belts, ties, underwear and socks) and luggage and leather goods, as well as newer entrants to the men’s product array, such as men’s cosmetics, stationary and jewelry. In addition, the floors offer a clear view of pretty much any style a man might be seeking: resort and casual style, dress-up style, modern traditional style (business wear, casual wear and order-made suits), “light mode” style (casual wear, business wear, accessories and bicycles), and “smart street” style (casual wear, hats, bags, accessories). Over 350 brands are represented, from Alexander McQueen and Armani to Yohji Yamamoto. But perhaps the most interesting floor from a trend-watching viewpoint is the 8th floor, the “Refresh Court,” which includes a hair salon, a nail salon, food care and body care.

We can look as far back as 1968 to find the first “all men’s focused” department store offering. This is when Isetan Men’s debuted. Today, said to account for 25% of all men’s clothes sold via Tokyo’s department stores, Isetan Men’s was renovated in 2003 and continues to do very well.

Over the years, I can recall a boomlet among younger males for “men’s facial masks” as well as a tendency for “body hair removal,” but the overall movement seemed to really pick up steam with the introduction of Leon Magazine in 2001, a publication designed to inspire and glorify men aged in their 40s and 50s who might wish to redefine themselves in new ways, especially via out-of the-norm clothing choices. Finally, caring about one’s appearance with abandon was out of the closet.

Hankyu Hyakkaten Men’s in Osaka opened in early 2008 and enjoyed sales of nearly 27 billion yen and over 8.7 million visitors in its first year. The new Hankyu Men’s Tokyo store features over 350 brands and anticipates 12 billion yen in sales in its first year.

Both Isetan and Hankyu offer special stylist services, but Isetan is perhaps leading the game in terms of offering the widest range of services. At Isetan, customers can get free cosmetics counseling and shoe fitting, among other services. It also offers a “total makeover service” in which personality, job type and position are taken into consideration.

Other examples of growth in male-targeted marketing can be seen in cosmetics, specifically with the market size expansion despite a slumpish economy. In 2009 the men’s cosmetics market had expanded by 3.5% to 1,077 million yen, and was especially strong via direct marketing channels. In 2010, the market expanded again by nearly 3%, to 1,505 million yen.

And naturally, there are websites jumping on the bandwagon to support men’s efforts, including those that focus on education and guidelines regarding skincare, and those that provide event information for nights out on the town.

Can it be long before even more companies start to seriously consider the relatively untapped market of Japanese males?

Debbie Howard is Chairman of CarterJMRN and President Emeritus of the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan.

Originally Published in Nikkei Weekly, 21st November 2011

CarterJMRN is a strategic market research agency that has been helping clients with consumers and businesses in Japan and beyond since 1989.

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