The kitchen appliances market in Japan is in a somewhat stable growth phase and struggling, having registered a declining volume of sales last year. A shrinking consumer base and already deep penetration in key categories militate against volume growth in the Japanese consumer appliances market. Consequently, there is a growing pressure on manufacturers to generate value through the development of more sophisticated, higher-end products.
While Japan is a technologically advanced market, consumers are increasingly looking for multifunctional kitchen appliances.
The increasing demand for convenient consumer appliances that ease the time pressures on busy modern consumers, especially women engaging in paid employment, is providing a boost to interest in connectivity. However, though Japan is a technologically sophisticated market, consumers have been relatively reluctant to adopt connected consumer appliances compared with those in other markets in the region, such as China and South Korea.
While small cooking appliances have witnessed a continued decline by volume, Japanese consumers are willing to pay higher prices for added features and superior product design. This premiumization trend in small cooking appliances began in rice cookers and toasters, as consumers sought better tasting rice and toast. Although there is a strong healthy living trend in Japan, small cooking appliances with a health-orientated positioning, such as that of light fryers and electric steamers have struggled in the sales. This was mainly due to the limited space available in the Japanese kitchens, which magnifies the competitive threat represented by other kitchen appliances.
Domestic manufacturers continue to dominate the kitchen and consumer appliances in Japan, with seven of the top 10 companies being Japanese, while the Chinese players, Hon Hai and Midea, retaining Japanese brand identities for their operations in the market having, respectively, acquired the consumer appliances operations of Sharp and Toshiba. Japanese brands have established high levels of recognition and trust amongst local consumers.
Japanese internet retailing continued to expand dynamically. The increasing number of consumers are getting used to purchasing online. Home shopping retailers increase the internet retailing ratio. Large home shopping retailers like Jupiter Shop Channel, Japanese Takata, and QVC are increasing the proportion of their sales they make through internet retailing.
Home shopping and internet retailing are specifically compatible in terms of the development of an integrated, multi-channel strategy, as consumers are happy to turn to the convenience of the internet to make purchases following exposure to home shopping TV programs or home shopping catalogs.
Japan is expected to see kitchen appliances volume stagnate over the next few years, constrained by maturity across several categories and a shrinking consumer base. However, busy lifestyles, made more hectic by an increase in the number of households in which people live alone or in which all the adults are in paid employment, is boosting demand for appliances that reduce the time spent on household chores.