December 8, 2023

You wouldn’t necessarily think it now that foot traffic is on the rise in Tokyo’s retail hubs in the countdown to the festive season, but consumers don’t appear to be all that keen to open their wallets right now. While many fashion retailers were forced to focus on survival this time last year, they’re now looking to make some gains from the long-promised “bounce back” that market analysts have been predicting.

However, flat sales on the back of rising commodity prices are making it hard for department stores to offload the luxury items they typically thrive on, especially with hordes of foreign tourists still locked out of the country.

Isetan Shinjuku and Nihombashi Mitsukoshi have stepped into the void, offering an I’m Green campaign that might help consumers justify these extravagant purchases. The campaign’s effectively a second-hand buying service for fashion and other luxury items that focuses on recycling and sustainability. It’s obviously a laudable goal, except that such a shift has already happened some time ago at the younger end of the market.

More interestingly, the second-hand retail service is the first of its kind to be offered at a Japanese department store. Prominent second-hand fashion franchises such as 2nd Street are boasting hundreds of outlets nationwide and the fact that high-end department stores are now starting to embrace the concept as well points to a real shift in strategy.

Of course, consumers are naturally going to be cynical about a campaign that flogs sustainable consumption that has been organized by retailers trying to sell them goods. However, Isetan Mitsukoshi Holdings says the campaign has been successful in its first month of operation, which suggests the store has read the market well and is providing a service that people genuinely need.

The I’m Green service is now available in store, with plans to process buys online in the future.

Beams Women Harajuku’s Vintage Mix Collection promotion runs through Dec. 26. | BEAMS

Fashion retailers could also lower prices in a bid to attract customers but making less profit on each item isn’t going to help outlets get into the black and the tactic could just as easily damage a store’s reputation. It’s better instead to bring a unique selection of items that have a comparatively lower value into a store and make them available for customers with less purchasing power.

Beams Women Harajuku is seeking to adopt such a tactic, offering a large selection of vintage fashion items at a fraction of the price of new items in store.

The Vintage Mix Collection promotion runs through Dec. 26.

Beams has launched a virtual shopping experience as part of Virtual Market 2021. | BEAMS
Beams has launched a virtual shopping experience as part of Virtual Market 2021. | BEAMS

A number of shoppers are still a little cautious about venturing into bustling retail environments due to concerns about the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

To reach these customers, Beams has also launched a virtual shopping experience as part of Virtual Market 2021, offering winter garments focusing on classic revival designs from the 1970s and other eras that you can look over in a virtual preview or with an avatar. Designed by HIKKY, the looks for men and women retail for ¥3,000 each (including tax).

The gift of giving

If you’re on the hunt for presents for a special someone this season, then stores are currently full of perfectly adequate Christmas collections from prominent designers such as Vivienne Westwood and Yohji Yamamoto.

If you’re looking for something a little different, though, And Cloud from Milk — the same group that owns some of the biggest fashion jewelry brands in the country at the moment, Ete and Jouete — might well be worth a look.

And Cloud offers a range of jewelry that is both ethical and genderless. | AND CLOUD
And Cloud offers a range of jewelry that is both ethical and genderless. | AND CLOUD

And Cloud aims to be ethical and genderless, and also manages to deliver a layered chains aesthetic that seems in no danger of falling out of vogue.

The retailer also accepts optional donations to environmental programs, which makes purchases that much more meaningful.

Coming as it does from such a big player in the Japanese fashion jewelry industry, it clearly marks a change in values.

And Cloud is currently only available online.

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