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att. Culture - 100yen Shop
att. Culture - 100yen Shop
att.JAPAN Issue 7, July 2002

100yen Shop


100yenPrices have dropped and the frenzy is on. Japan's hundred yen shops.

Due to Japan's sunken economy, low prices have exceeded anyone's expectations. Now more than ever, can you discount the old saying "you can't buy anything for a dollar these days." The trend is nothing new to Japan. Signs of a decreasing economy started appearing as early as the beginning of the '90's. There were no signs that the economy would ever pick up until '95, for 2 years after which the economy rose slowly to peak at the end of '96. Since then it has slid steadily to an all time low changing the way customers shop and giving retailers little hope but to develop a new way of doing business to meet their needs and stay afloat. The hundred yen store ('hyaku-en ya' or 百円屋 in Japanese) was the answer to their cry for lower prices, and soon the once dormant concept woke up and caught on like wildfire.

100yen ShopAlthough hundred yen shops have been around in Japan since the '70's, the recent hundred yen boom directly connected to the economic occurrences has made a once not so well thought of shopping experience into a gold rush as people try to get the best deals in hard times. Leading this trend is Daiso, a gigantic hundred yen shop chain with often multi-floored mind-boggling sized shops, which would better be called markets or super stores. One such shop in Kinshicho, on the Sobu or Chuo line, simply goes by the name of "the Daiso." From storefront to the back room the entire store measures 100 meters (90 yards) long! It can't be but a little less in width, and this place has everything. The general rule when choosing which hundred yen shop to shop at is 'the bigger the better.' Try to aim for the largest stores possible because it is there that you will find the best quality and most variety. Hundred yen shops are like the ninety-nine cent shops of the future. They are extremely clean and sometimes make you feel as if you were in an ordinary shopping mall or supermarket.

You can find things you would never imagine to find for one hundred yen- a price that always feels right no matter what you may decide to throw in the cart. You can find anything from plastic ware and kitchen utensils to clothes, food, cosmetics, and ornaments for the house. Things like baskets, chopsticks, and Japanese traditional items like toys make great souvenirs. Daiso has grown to become "the king of hundred yen," in opposition to the economic undertow that made such a shipwreck of so many a business.

100yen ShopBesides customers' changed behavior from rich to super conservative, the hundred yen shops' increased popularity is due to the unbelievable variety to be found. If there ever was a sign of a co-evolution presence between consumer and retailer this is definitely it. Many people are shocked even more than before to discover what each new day brings to the shop shelves. I remember when the shops first started to evolve, remarks such as "This kind of thing for a hundred yen?" could be heard being uttered in every shop corner. Remarks such as these are ever-present as the two creatures continue to evolve. The hundred yen shop has become a system that interacts daily with customers on their level. On top of that, stores like Daiso are able to manufacture around 80% of their own products, having the ability to cut the middlemen out of the manufacturer-retailer system. It deals similarly with the suppliers of the remaining 20% of their goods. Likewise, many retailers are now concentrating on making special deals with manufacturers, namely the act of purchasing huge amounts of items from manufacturers for less money instead of the more expensive fewer amounts from wholesalers. Buying high volumes for lower prices results in places like hundred yen shops being able to stock their store with items that usually go for up to 1000 yen and sell it for 100 yen. Retailers who sell products in this way, make their customers happy and frequent.

It will be interesting to see what the market will do next, what reactions to the market we will have, and where it will bring us all. In the mean time, you better go out and take advantage of the great prices while they last. Good things never seem to last but hopefully this one will prosper and be around forever.

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