French Connection & VERSACE to leave Japan

1972年にステファン・マークスがロンドンでスタートしたブランド フレンチ・コネクション(French Connection)が、2001年より日本に進出しなんとかここまできたが、売り上げが伸びず日本から撤退することを明らかにした。

また、ドナテラ・ヴェルサーチ(Donatella Versace)によるイタリアの有名ファッションブランド ヴェルサーチ(VERSACE)も日本から撤退することを明らかにした。高額商品が揃った日本市場でのビジネスはとても厳しくなってきている。ハイブランド、スポーツブランド、セレクトと、異なった種類のファッションのなかで、誰しも日本でのビジネスに興味を示すこの時代。ヴェルサーチ&フレンチコネクションは負けてしまった。80年代後半から90年代後半にかけて、日本ではチンピラ(ヤクザヤンキー)と呼ばれるグループの間でとても大流行だったはず。ヴェルサーチと聞くと、一番最初に思いつくのはそのイメージだ。

こういった残念な話が相次ぐなか、新しく日本に進出した高感度大のショップ「OPENING CEREMONY」の日本1号店が先日オープン。この時のオープニングパーティーは、不況の”不”の字を吹き飛ばしてくれたような気がする。とにかく、日本でのビジネスはもう少し慎重にならないと駄目ということね。

ここでは、アメリカのカジュアルファッションブランドとして位置するアバクロンビー&フィッチ(Abercrombie & Fitch)が、2009年の冬に日本の銀座へと出店計画があるのだが、この話もだいぶ前から日本に進出すると言われている。無事に進出(出店)することができるのか。

japanese fashion

Versace has closed all three of it’s directly owned stores in Japan and it’s reported their business office in Tokyo will be closed by the end of the month. French Connection will close all twenty-one of it’s stores in the next six to nine months. Two very different retail brands suffering the same fate in the Japanese market.

In the case of Versace the International press is reporting that this has a lot to do with the diminishing market for luxury import goods in Japan, expected to be ¥992.7 billion this year down from the 1996 peak of ¥1.9 trillion. Sure that’s got a lot to do with it. But a ¥992.7 billion market still isn’t something to be sniffed at. The problem with Versace lies in the brand image with the Japanese consumer. Japanese luxury brand PR’s have a habit of safe guarding their brands image rather than thinking of new dynamic ways to push their brands image forward. A lot of brands here need to take more assertive action in connecting their brands to the unique ways of customers here. The main PR nightmare for Versace is the fact it has been viewed as a brand the Yakuza would wear in the late 80’s and early 90’s, an image they have never been able to shake off. Lending a couple of suits to Hirai Ken every season is not a viable PR strategy! Donatalla Versace has never been to Japan, at least not on official Versace brand business. A week in Tokyo, a round of interviews/photo shoots with the top editors and a party would have provided invaluable press coverage for the company.

French Connection just didn’t connect with the Japanese consumer. The one time this shopper visited a FCUK store here 4 years ago, the clothes that were displayed in the campaign shot along the shops walls weren’t even available in Japan. It’s difficult to understand which demographic they were aiming at with their style and pricing. They are hoping to find a licensee to take over the business here.

International brands have a history of leaving the Japanese market only to re-strategize and reenter a couple of years later. Abercrombie and Fitch has been strategizing for years now! There is still a large market here. Companies just need to work harder to get it right. PR departments here lag behind the rest of the world in keeping up with new media and interesting ways to keep existing customers happy whilst appealing to new ones.