What are the impacts of the crisis on your market?
In Japan, the hike of consumption taxes from 8% to 10% last October weakened consumers’ motivation to spend. According to the Japan Meteorological Agency, the temperature during winter 2020 (December 2019 to February 2020) was the highest since record keeping began, which slowed sales of winter wear. Cries that the current business situation is as bad as the financial crisis that arose from the collapse of Lehman Brothers could be heard throughout the textile and apparel industries.
It is in these circumstances that the coronavirus spread throughout the world. The Japanese government declared a state of emergency in April, which made many retailers refrain from opening their stores. According to the Japan Department Stores Association, apparel sales at member department stores across the nation in April fell 82.7% year-on-year. The declaration of emergency was completely lifted by May 25, but slumping apparel sales are expected to continue for some time.
Are we going to restart as quickly as possible or do you think we will be able to rethink the world tomorrow?
While declining apparel sales at brick-and-mortar stores have accelerated due to the impact of the coronavirus, the increase in online shopping sales is also accelerating. Online sales still account for a small portion of the sales of Japanese apparel companies, but many of the companies are attempting to increase their online sales.
Of the garments currently sold in Japan, 98% (quantitative basis) are imported. What we should be aware of as the coronavirus continues for a long time are moves to produce domestically instead of overseas. However, it is unlikely to become a major trend because the number of factories has been decreasing in Japan. Figuring out how to carry out production overseas more smoothly will be a major challenge.
What has the crisis changed for you or what have you learned personally?
The pandemic has made me aware that even the trivial pleasures of everyday life, which I had not appreciated before, are so precious. It will be a while before things return to normal, but I believe that day will definitely come and hope we emerge safely from this period.