A large number of factories have closed and their business has shifted overseas. Will domestically produced clothing “disappear”?
Japanese media said that the scale of Japan’s domestic clothing production continues to shrink. EDWIN, Japan’s largest jeans manufacturer, has closed domestic factories one after another. Japanese clothing companies such as Uniqlo have expanded production overseas where labor costs are low. In 2017, the proportion of imports reached about 98%, while the number of domestically produced pieces in Japan fell below 100 million pieces for the first time. Although some clothing companies insist on producing domestically, competition is fierce. Japanese domestically produced clothing is at risk of disappearing.
According to a report on the Nihon Keizai Shimbun website on June 29, EDWIN integrated some factories in Aomori Prefecture in 2017 and plans to further improve production and revive its business in the future.
According to statistics from the Japan Textile Importers Association, the “import penetration rate” showing the proportion of domestic clothing imports in Japan was 97.6% in 2017, setting a new record high for five consecutive years. Due to the increase in imports from China and other Asian countries, the import proportion has increased by more than 25 percentage points compared with 20 years ago. On the contrary, Japan’s domestic production volume continued to exceed 200 million pieces until 2008, but dropped to approximately 98.4 million pieces in 2017, falling below the 100 million piece mark for the first time.
According to reports, with the apparel industry falling into a defensive war, executives of large shirt manufacturers said frankly: “Some peer companies have asked us to increase orders for domestic factories.” Yamaki, a large shirt manufacturer with factories in Kyushu and other places, said The company said it would be difficult to compete with overseas products if low-priced products were not produced more often in factories in China and Laos.
Reports believe that overseas products cannot compete not only because of cost differences such as labor costs with emerging markets, but also because overseas factories, under the technical guidance of Japan, achieve the same quality as Japan in processes such as dyeing and sewing.
According to reports, GU, a large casual clothing company, is focusing on China and Vietnam to improve the technical capabilities of its employees and build a production system that is low-priced and can quickly integrate popular elements into products. Tadashi Yanai, chairman of Fast Retailing, which operates GU, said: “Asian factory employees are very capable. Japanese factory employees are older and the average number of people per factory is smaller.”
According to reports, Japan’s domestic clothing market has shrunk from 15 trillion yen (1 yuan is about 16.7 yen) during the bubble economy to 10 trillion yen, while supply has increased from 2 billion pieces. to nearly 4 billion pieces. Compared with the past, when one piece of clothing was worn for a long time, today’s dressing style of chasing fashion trends and frequently purchasing low-priced clothing continues to permeate. The average unit price of Japan’s clothing market has declined. C2C (personal-to-person transactions) websites such as second-hand goods trading platform Mercari have captured consumer psychology, making this trend more and more obvious.
However, Japanese domestic clothing manufacturers are not sitting still. A company famous for a certain brand of shirts has been focusing on domestic production. At the end of December 2017, it launched a “purely domestic shirt” in which all processes from weaving to sewing are completed in Japanese factories. The price of this shirt is 6,900 yen excluding tax. Against the background of low clothing prices, this price is higher than other manufacturers’ products, but they are often sold out of stock in physical stores. The company’s chairman, Sadao Yoshio, said: “The response from the New York stores in the United States has also been very good, and we strive to promote shirts produced in Japan to the world.”
According to reports, in Japan, although the price of customized clothing is on the high side, its popularity has not diminished. Technologies such as automatic production by machinery are also advancing. Japan’s apparel industry is at a critical juncture, and companies are exploring survival strategies such as brand building and new marketing techniques using data. (Title: A large number of factories have closed and their business has shifted overseas. Will Japanese domestic clothing “disappear”?)
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