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Opening Perspectives for the Japanese market
Approaching the contract market for lighting fixtures


The number of new dwellings in Japan peaked at around 1.5 million units per year during the ˈ90s and decreased to 900,000 in the early 2010ˈs. Since demand in the first months of 2017 is increasing by 2.8%, the number of new dwellings will again exceed one million. Daiwa House Industry, Kajima Corporation, Obayashi, Shimizu, and Takenaka are among the main developers. Good building activity, together with a confirmed ˈquantitative easingˈ and social factors could open new perspectives for the European companies in Japan.

More room for design-oriented kitchen furniture

System kitchens were introduced in Japan in the mid-70s. Previously, kitchens were sold as individual units (sink, gas range, etc). Each element of a sectional kitchen is free standing. System kitchens feature a long worktop and offer the possibility to insert built-in appliances like an oven or a dishwasher. Generally speaking, sectional kitchens are installed in rented apartments, while system kitchens are made for property homes and for projects on demand. The market for system kitchens is moderately increasing, passing from 1.1-1.2 million units ten years ago to 1.3 million more recently (2013-2016). The opposite is true for sectional kitchens: Around 880,000 units fifteen years ago, around 460,000 units today. Imports are stable but relevant at around USD 120 million per year. Top 5 players (Lixil, Toto, Takara Standard, Panasonic, and CleanUp) control over 75% of the market.

Approaching the Contract Market for Lighting Fixtures

Approximately 380 players (main contractors and specifiers) operate in this field. Major contractors in the Japanese market are Takenaka, Hiroshi Nakamura and NAP architects, Ishimoto Architectural & Engineering Firm, and MEC Design International Corporation. Takenaka is the biggest architecture, engineering, and construction firm in Japan with 20 offices worldwide.

Hiroshi Nakamura and NAP architects. Nakamura is probably best known for a domestic architectural style characterised by a particular sensitivity to nature.

Ishimoto Architectural & Engineering Firm. Clients benefit from Ishimotoˈs leading edge design technology as well as its extensive experience in the design of public facilities, government offices, cultural community centres, retail and office buildings, educational and research facilities, hospitals and medical facilities, hotels, resorts, residences, manufacturing and distribution facilities, and urban development areas. Over 300 staff.

MEC Design International Corporation, a subsidiary of Mitsubishi Estate Company Ltd., MEC was established as an international design firm in March 1972. Some of the most important architectural practices in Japan working in the Lighting sector are: AXL Satow (400 Architects and Engineers), Nap Architects, Suppose Design Office Ryuichi Ashizawa (Hiroshima based), Shoichi Uchiyama Design Office (He cooperates in Europe with Louis Poulsen, in Japan with Toshiba). Some magazines addressing main contractors are: Kenchiku Gijutsu (Architectural Technology), Shinkenchiku (New Architecture), JA/The Japan Architect, GA Japan, Nikkei Architecture, Kindaikagu (contemporary furniture), Nikkei Design.

Home Centres are growing-up in Japan

The major home centres are: DCM Holdings, Cainz, Komeri, Kohnan Shoji, Shimachu, Joyful Honda, Nafco, Tokiu Hands, and LIXIL Viva. Most of them have 150-250 outlets. Top 20 players have almost 4,000 outlets (total market is today 4,700 outlets). During the 2007-2015 period, top players increased by 20% on average (Komeri, Viva, Tokiu Hands, Shimachu).

Today top 20 players hold a market share of 75% (30 billion out of 40 billion YEN). Total market increased from YEN 35 billion in 1998, YEN 39 billion in 2007 and almost YEN 40 billion in 2016.

Shimachu was established in 1947 with furniture stores and has expanded to the home centre business. Nafco, founded in 1970, operates mainly home and furniture chain stores. Joyful Honda recorded a turnover of 159 billion YEN (-2%) in the year 2016. 4200 employees. Just starting with kitchen furniture (inside Smile Honda).

Lifestyle stores are in the air

Among the major stores in this category: Muji Ryohin Keikaku, FrancFranc, Tokyu Hands, Bals Corporation and Jtex. Most of the stores offer their products through e-commerce as well as on their shelves.

Bals Corporation: headquartered in Tokyo, is primarily engaged in the retail sale of interior decoration goods and sundries under the FrancFranc, Bals Tokyo, Agito and J brand names. The company distributes its products through directly owned stores in large commercial facilities, such as department stores and fashion buildings. It has two subsidiaries, Realfleet Co Ltd, which is involved in the planning and wholesaling of home appliances, and Bals Hong Kong Limited. About 140 stores in total: 114 FrancFranc stores; 5 Bals Tokyo stores; 3 J. Period stores (Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto), 18 About a Girl stores.

Keyuka, active with several restaurants in Tokyoˈs region, manages also 7 furniture stores. Product portfolio includes a lighting fixtures catalogue (mostly composed by Yamada).

Actus is an interior goods and furniture retailer handling imported Scandinavian furniture and other quality design products. Actus offers new options for urban living to customers through its attractive product line-up. In February 2006, Actus became part of the Kokuyo Group (office furniture).

Living Design Center OZONE features 30 showrooms based on the A street in Tokjo theme of comfortable living space. They showcase furniture and interior items, home equipment, interior materials and other items essential for living space. By offering images of residences, the showrooms provide multi-faceted views of living space and plentiful information to stimulate visitor sensitivity. Living Design Center includes six floors in one fashion high tower near Shinjuku, with around 40 shops offering furniture, kitchen furniture and lighting (Artemide, Flos, Louis Poulsen, Le Klint, and Le Dauphin) plus a sector library and the opportunity to request design services.

Yamagiwa Livina is known for its selection of quality brands from Italy, Germany, Finland, Denmark, Switzerland, the United States as well as design products made in Japan. Lighting collection brands: Yamagiwa, Flos, Artemide, Luceplan, Fontana Arte, iGuzzini, Foscarini, Prandina, Produzione Privata, Lolli & Memmoli, Venini, Ingo Maurer, Limburg, Domus, Artek, Isamu Noguchi and Frank Lloyd Wright. It runs sales outlets in Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya.


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