Background Note | HBS Case Collection | June 2005

Overview of the Japanese Apparel Market

by Rajiv Lal and Arar Han


Provides an overview of the Japanese apparel market, which was a 13.1 trillion yen industry in 2003, reflecting 5.5% year-over-year shrinkage since 1997, when retailers logged 17.5 trillion yen in sales. Compared to their global counterparts, Japanese apparel shoppers in the 12 to 35 age bracket are considered to be extremely fashion sensitive. Because these consumers commit a disproportionately large amount of their disposable income to fashion goods, the Japanese apparel market has been very attractive to global players such as Inditex, parent of Zara. Moreover, it is considered a promising market for small niche retailers and boutiques featuring up-and-coming designers, many of which are flourishing in areas of Tokyo such as the renowned Harajuku district. By the turn of the 21st century, Japan's chic apparel shoppers have enabled Tokyo to become a fashion center, influencing styles in other Asian countries such as China and Korea and drawing the attention of trend watchers and fashion journalists from around the world.

Keywords: Trends; Financial Crisis; Trade; Emerging Markets; Sales; Luxury; Competition; Segmentation; Apparel and Accessories Industry; Fashion Industry; Asia; China; Japan; Korean Peninsula;


Lal, Rajiv, and Arar Han. "Overview of the Japanese Apparel Market." Harvard Business School Background Note 505-068, June 2005.