Organizer and Chair: Lonny E. Carlile, University of Hawaii at Manoa
Discussants: Sidney Cheung, Chinese University of Hong Kong; Thomas R. H. Havens, University of California, Berkeley
Considerable attention has been focused in recent years on the role of Japanese manufacturing firms in the deepening economic integration occurring among the fast growing economies of East Asia. Relatively little attention has been given to the flip side of this process-namely, the growth of consumerism in East Asia, the expansion of international retail enterprises to service it, and the prominent role of Japanese retailing therein.
This panel is built around three complementary papers that are intended to help fill this void. Millie Creighton, an anthropologist, reviews the cultural context of the "Japanese" department store and then explores analytically and empirically the implications of this cultural context for the export of the Japanese department store "concept" to contemporary East Asian environments. Using an approach that integrates analysis of business strategy with comparative political economy methodology, Lonny Carlile reviews the experience of the most conspicuous and successful of Japan's retailing groups in the Greater China market and uses it as a vehicle for exploring the question of transferability from a different perspective. Finally, Kate Zhou and Wang Hansheng, adopting a sociopolitical frame of reference, view the process from the other side in a study of the attitudinal and strategic impact of Japanese retailing in China. Together, the three panel presentations provide an interdisciplinary and multinational analysis of the phenomenon of Japanese retailing in East Asia that will hopefully serve as a base for future studies of the potential "Japanization" of East Asian consumerism.
Japan's Department Stores: Mediating Cultural Transitions
Millie Creighton, University of British Columbia
This paper explores the role of department stores in shaping modern Japanese consumerism and retailing, and also how department stores operate as important cultural institutions in Japan, as a background to the possible impact of Japanese retailing in other parts of Asia. Within Japan, in the latter half of this century Japanese department stores served as icons of "Akarui Seikatsu," of the much sought after "bright life," the promise of progress and modern consumerism. As Japan was pushing to catch up with the West, these models of Western institutions became symbols of modernization and Westernization. Now, in other parts of Asia, it is often Japanese department stores and merchandising that are looked to for images to emulate in developing goals. The paper suggests that the exclusive services provided by Japanese department stores, the ritualistic treatment of money and the "customer as guest" metaphor arose from cultural idioms of Japanese life. It looks at some of the problems involved in earlier attempts to relocate these retailing concepts along with branch stores, to other Asian countries.
The Yaohan Group: Model for or Maverick among Japanese Retailers in China?
Lonny E. Carlile, University of Hawaii at Manoa
The Yaohan Group traces its roots to a small chain of department stores established in Japan's Izu Peninsula during the early 1960s. Currently it operates approximately 350 stores and numerous shopping centers worldwide, with most of them located in areas with large Chinese populations. In 1990, Yaohan moved its headquarters from Japan to Hong Kong and began expanding into Mainland China itself, with a target of 1,000 stores by 2010 and 1 trillion yen in sales by 2000. It has already opened what is claimed to be Asia's largest shopping center in Shanghai. Yaohan is widely recognized as being at the forefront of Japanese retailing in Greater China, and its chairman, Wada Kazuo, a "guru" of entry into the China market.
The paper analyzes the strategy, structure, process and impact of Yaohan's expansion into the Greater China market in light of efforts by other major Japanese retailers as a way to understand the forces that are shaping the course of Japanese retailing in China and elsewhere in East Asia. Specifically, it asks the following questions: What were the circumstances that gave rise to Yaohan's entry into the China market and to what extent do these circumstances currently apply to other Japanese retailers? What was the nature of Yaohan's business strategy as it expanded, and to what extent are other Japanese retailers likely to be inclined to duplicate this approach? Subsidiary topics covered are discussions of managerial philosophy, corporate organizational structure, personnel policies, financial arrangements, distribution systems, corporate identity, personnel policies, and political factors.
Japanese Influences on Chinese Consumerism and Retailing
Kate Xiao Zhou, University of Hawaii, Manoa; Hansheng Wang, Beijing University
This paper examines the Japanese influences on Chinese consumerism and retailing. It examines Japanese retailing strategies and the Chinese adoption of the Japanese retailing model. It first analyzes the range of marketing strategies pursued by Japanese retailing companies, from commercial ads to packaging. The paper then looks at Chinese consumer attitudes toward Japanese goods. A survey of consumer attitudes is analyzed to determine why and to what extent Chinese people have become more interested in Japanese products relative to Western products. Finally, the paper examines how Chinese retail businesses are learning from the Japanese retailing model. It suggests that the Japanization of Chinese retailing is transforming Chinese retailing culture. The Japanese influence affects every aspect of Chinese retailing from its organizational identities to its financial arrangements and distribution systems.
Why is Japanese retailing so successful in China? Why do Japanese goods appeal to the Chinese? Will Japanization increase Chinese nationalism? How do Chinese deal with their nationalism while at the same time adopting and absorbing both Japanese goods and Japanese ways of life? These are a few of the questions the paper attempts to answer.