MUJI” is losing ground while low-priced apparel is booming | FRIDAY DIGITAL

MUJI” is losing ground while low-priced apparel is booming

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Uniqlo, Workman… Low-priced apparel brands have announced price hikes across the board.

Prices are beginning to rise due to the shutdown of overseas factories and disruption of distribution networks caused by the COVID-19 crisis, as well as fuel shortages and skyrocketing prices due to the Russian invasion. In addition, the dollar has begun to appreciate on its own due to higher U.S. interest rates, and currencies other than the dollar have begun to fall (although attention is focused only on the weak yen, the euro, yuan, and won have also plunged against the dollar), further increasing the price hike factor.

In this environment, domestic low-priced apparel brands are also announcing price hikes across the board. In most cases, however, the price hikes are not across-the-board, are not very large, and in most cases, the price increases are limited to a few items.

For example, UNIQLO has announced price increases for five product numbers starting this fall. In reality, however, UNIQLO is not saying that it will raise prices on only five items, but rather that it will announce price hikes on only five items. The range of the price increase is approximately 500 to 1,000 yen.

Workman has been reported as saying “prices will remain unchanged,” but it has announced price increases for 10 product numbers. In reality, however, the price increase is limited to those 10 product numbers, and it must be said that the headline “price increase for 10 product numbers only” is correct.

The headline “UNIQLO Raises Prices, Workman Stays the Same” seems arbitrary.

MUJI’s new president has launched a plan to achieve “3 trillion yen in global sales… (Photo: Afro)

MUJI” is strongly advocating price deferral

MUJI is strongly advocating price maintenance.

Even before the recent price hikes, there had been many price hike risks in the apparel industry, and in fact, each brand had been keeping prices unchanged just in time. MUJI has repeatedly lowered its regular prices, mainly for clothing, and this time it has kept its prices unchanged, so it can be said to be considerably cheaper than other low-priced brands.

Generally speaking, products and services are less likely to sell at high prices and more likely to sell at low prices. A product priced at 100 yen is easier to buy than a product priced at 10,000 yen. Therefore, unsold products and services are sold at a reduced price.

However, within the same price range, it is often the case that a slightly higher price or a slightly lower price than other companies makes no difference in sales. Especially in the case of clothing, since it is not a “disappearing item” and once purchased, it will not be damaged for at least several seasons, it does not always sell because it is very inexpensive. Many Japanese already own several pieces of clothing, so they do not need what they do not need even if it is cheap.

MUJI” covering up for struggling clothing sales with strong sales of food products

There is always a disparity in sales even among low-priced brands: in 2020, the COVID-19 crisis saw the first ever major store closures and shortened hours.

In 2020, the COVID-19 crisis continues, but there are no longer long store closures or extreme shortening of hours, and the majority of consumers are shopping at physical stores, albeit with some caution, so sales have returned to some level, if not to a full recovery to the pre-COVID-19 level. The market is returning to a certain level, if not to a full recovery to the pre-Corona level.

From the announced financial results , Shimamura is doing well and has fully recovered, and Workman is growing much faster than before Corona. Uniqlo and g.u. are strong but not back to 2019 results. Hanes is also doing well.

In the midst of all this, MUJI clothing continues to struggle. MUJI has three areas of business: apparel, daily necessities, and food, and collectively, MUJI’s same-store performance has recently continued a trend where the struggling performance of apparel has been offset by the strong performance of food.

Workman is growing more than before Corona

COVID-19 crisis, with food performing well and clothing stalling.

Domestic same-store sales of apparel were strong in the fiscal year ended February 2019, growing 5.1% year over year. The previous year, the fiscal year ended February 2018, was up 7.5%, so this is a strong performance, with even more growth.

The COVID-19 crisis began to modulate in 2021, and domestic same-store sales of apparel for the fiscal year ended August 2021 stopped growing, at a tony annual rate.

Particularly noticeable was the stall in the summer of 2009, when same-store apparel sales fell 19.6% in June, picked up slightly in July (-5.4%), and sank 23.1% in August. And that leads directly to the August 2022 period (annual totals have not yet been tabulated as of this writing).

Domestic same-store sales of apparel for the fiscal year ended August 2010 exceeded the previous year’s results only on three occasions: in January, April, and May of 2010. The remaining nine times were all below the previous year’s level. The most recent preliminary sales report for August 2010 showed a 9.0% decline. The total for the year will probably also end up below the previous year’s performance.

On the other hand, food products, which had been the driving force behind the strong performance, seems to have entered a plateau in the fiscal year ended August 2010. Sales of food products exceeded the previous year’s level only twice, in November 2009 and in May 2010. However, since food product sales increased 41.8% year-on-year in total for the year ended August 2009, 2010 should be viewed as a “plateau” or “stagnation period” rather than a slump.

It is an illusion that if you don’t raise prices, you can sell…

Now, MUJI has been struggling with clothing since the summer of 2009, but here are my impressions based on fixed-point observations at the store

  • 1. There are no new products in the clothing lineup since the summer of 2009.
  • 2_There has been no novelty in the composition and display of the clothing section since summer 2009.
  • 3_Lack of mass-trend loose silhouette products

3_Lack of mass-trend loose silhouette products.

MUJI’s clothing line has always sold basic items, but even so, new products and new color patterns were introduced every season. However, looking at the lineup from the summer of 2009, there are almost no new items in stock, and all we see are reproductions of 19-year items. This means that people who bought products in 19 and 20 will not bother to buy products in 22.

The difficulty in selling a brand that has no new products (or appears to have no new products) can be seen by looking at MUJI’s struggling apparel business in the fiscal year ended August 2010.

In the clothing industry, there is an insistence on “increasing the number of standard items” to reduce unsold items. Some consumers also say, “We don’t need a lot of new products; we want a full lineup of standard items. However, not many consumers continue to buy the same number of copies of the same product year after year.

Consumers who buy three different colors in the first year will only buy one of each color every year from the following year onward. If this is the case, sales will naturally not increase. In fact, they will decrease. This is what is happening in the clothing departments of existing MUJI stores.

The new president of Ryohin Keikaku, which operates MUJI stores, has announced a plan to achieve global sales of 3 trillion yen, but I must say that it will be very difficult to achieve this goal at the current rate.

MUJI, which had repeatedly lowered its regular prices before the COVID-19 crisis, announced this year that it would keep its prices unchanged. This is a true indication of the fact. I would like to see how MUJI will improve its products and sales floors from this fall onward.

  • Interview and text Mitsuhiro Minami

    Born in 1970. After retiring in 2003, he worked in public relations for a T-shirt apparel manufacturer, as a magazine editor, in sales for a company sponsoring a large exhibition, and in public relations for a fashion college before becoming an independent writer. Currently, he works as a freelance textile industry writer and PR advisor.

  • Photo Afro

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