Hsin-Yin Lee, a former associate producer at Worldfocus, is a news editor at the “China Times” in Taipei.
Christmas is in the air, but Japanese salarymen see no reason to celebrate. Recent statistics said the average year-end bonus at major Japanese companies this year plunged by 15.01 percent to 755,628 yen, or around $8,400. It is also the first double-digit decline for winter bonuses and the sharpest year-on-year drop since the records began in 1959.
But even in slow times like this, the market manages to react fast. With personalized campaigns featuring lower prices, greater variety, and– perhaps most important of all– a sense of optimism, retailers in Japan are successfully attracting customers who have limited budgets.
For instance, Prince Hotel in Tokyo recently launched a special offer called “My X’mas.” Unlike traditional campaigns that target couples during the holiday season, the “single youth plan” allows single customers to put aside their daily routine and indulge in a personalized getaway. For $70, customers can enjoy 5-star services, including a Japanese traditional meal and a bonus “Christmas cake for one.”
Meanwhile, the fashion business adopts the “sensation” strategy to make their customers feel special. Breath Palette, a new line of boutique toothpastes, has become the recent must-have for Japanese celebrities. With 31 flavors such as L’Espresso, pumpkin pudding, cola, and Indian curry, (and who doesn’t love curry?) each flavor represents a day of the month so customers can change their mood on a daily basis.
For those who are not satisfied with only 31 choices for one product, Hoya recently introduced a digital SLR camera that features a total of 100 colors. Described as “geeky tech gifts for 2009 ” the product immediately became the most eye-catching item on the shelf.
As long as the recession continues, the unconventional campaigns will go on. In fact, psychologists said that such strategy–namely the “lipstick index“– works well in tough times. With the suggestion that lipstick sales go up during bad economic times, the index refers to consumption that helps consumers feel better about themselves when they face a dismal financial outlook.
Decorated by smart businessmen, winter in Japan seems less dull. After all, in the holiday season, what people want is actually quite simple– a way to have themselves a merry little Christmas.