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'Generic' home appliances selling well in Japan
Publication Date : 26-12-2013
Reasonably priced, user-friendly home electrical appliances, dubbed generic appliances, recently have been enjoying strong sales among students, single households and the elderly.
The appliances, dubbed generic appliances after low-cost generic drugs - have become more available in a wider range, expanding the customer base.
With the year-end shopping season well under way, many home appliance retailers are making extra efforts to promote such products.
In the home electric appliance section of Bic Camera Inc.’s Shinjuku east store near JR Shinjuku Station in Tokyo, electric heaters have been selling well because of the recent drop in temperatures.
Compared to major makers’ products priced at between 10,000 yen (US$96) and 20,000 yen ($192) - which include such functions as air cleaning and humidification - some generic products are available for between 2,000 yen ($19) and 3,000 yen ($29) because their functions are more limited.
“I only needed a heater to warm my feet,” said a 25-year-old Tokyo female customer in front of the products. “I didn’t expect these products to be priced so reasonably.”
Yodobashi Camera Co. is also promoting the lineup of its generic products, mainly in cooking appliances, such as microwave ovens and LED lightbulbs.
Goods with bigger price differences from major makers’ products sell better, according to the home appliance retailer.
Many makers of generic home appliances entrust overseas factories, including those in China, to manufacture them to cut production costs.
However, in many cases, major makers’ domestic subcontractors, which give good production results, design and develop the products.
A Bic Camera employee said the high quality of the generic products made in such an environment is a factor that contributes greatly to their growing popularity among consumers.
The variety of generic products has also been increasing - from cleaners, lighting equipment to cosmetic appliances. In many shops, generic items are displayed in places where customers can easily see them.
A Bic Camera employee said, “Generic electronics products are popular not only among students and those in single households, but also among elderly customers, who usually have difficulties using electronics and therefore enjoy the simpler, generic items.”
Yamazen Corp, an Osaka-based generic appliance development and designing company, has so far put about 3,000 appliances on the market, including electric fans, which are the company’s key products.
According to the company, their products are made with bigger buttons and letters to make them user-friendly to the elderly.
Coupled with other efforts, the sales of Yamazen’s generic products have increased 50 per cent in the past three years.
Another generic product maker, Twinbird Corp. in Niigata Prefecture, manufactures cleaners as its main products. As its core business, the company makes 20 different kinds of cleaners, including compact stick and easy-to-carry types.
Products priced between 4,000 yen and 5,000 yen sell well, according to the company.
The maker also emphasizes design and color variations for such products as microwaves, which are popular among young people who are interested in interior design coordination.
Along with the recent economic recovery, the home electrical appliance industry has begun to put more and more expensive products on the market.
On the other hand, however, “the need for simple and inexpensive products is still strong, creating a bipolar trend in the market,” an analyst said.
How to deal with the diversified needs of consumers likely will be an important factor for the industry to consider.