Danish Tiger to pounce on Japan’s ¥100 market

by Mads Berthelsen

Special To The Japan Times

Following the success in Japan of the Swedish home furnishings giant IKEA comes another popular Scandinavian home-ware store that hopes to profit from the nation’s love of Nordic style. This July, the Danish low-price retail chain Tiger plans to pounce on the Japanese consumer market by opening its first store in Osaka. Tiger will offer a range of colorful and low-priced household products, but unlike IKEA, its competition is more specific — Japan’s numerous, and popular, ¥100 stores.

“Our goal is to sell high-fashion, good quality items at low, set prices,” said Claus Falsig, representative director for Tiger in Japan, who explained in a recent interview that Tiger products, which are selected for their design, will be different to those offered in similar stores in Japan. “Mostly, we sell products that have been designed especially for Tiger, or products we have designed ourselves,” he said.

Tiger was established in Denmark in 1995 when Lennart Lajboschitz, the owner of a small retail shop in Copenhagen, went on holiday and left his sister in law in charge of his store. Before he left, however, he forgot to tell his sister-in-law the prices of each of the products in his shop, so she kept calling him to ask about different items. Eventually, Lajboschitz told her, “Just take 10 Kroner (about ¥150) for each thing.” The single price was a hit, and the store ended up naming itself the Danish slang word for a 10 Kroner coin — “Ti’er,” which sounds like the Danish pronunciation of the word “tiger.”

In Japan, instead of 10 kroner, most of the products at Tiger will cost ¥100, with others between ¥100 and ¥2,000.

“There is rarely a product in a Japanese ¥100 store that actually costs ¥100. It is usually ¥105 and sometimes a little more,” said Falsig, commenting on the fact that some ¥100 stores in Japan add consumption tax once you reach the till, and some offer goods at odd prices. “Why do this? It goes against the branding. Our prices will all be rounded numbers.”

The brand also plans to use some of its business models that have been successful in Denmark.

“We are trying to bring a little bit of Danish mentality into how we run these stores in Japan,” Falsig explained. “For example; the staff members in a shop in Osaka’s America Mura shopping district can be more flamboyant in style because in that area it’s very common for people, including customers, to look different and be outspoken. But, of course, that sort of thing wouldn’t fly in Ginza, Tokyo. Stores have to adapt to the areas they are located in.”

Can Tiger stand out in Japan, the same way it does in Denmark? According to Falsig, the plan is to use the same tactics that it does in its home country — bright colors. The stores will be recognizable by a bright orange logo, and that vibrancy will be echoed in the products.

“When everyone else chooses black and white, we choose blue and orange. We want to stand out with our use of colors — it’s a big part of our brand. You should be able to see that branding in every product you buy,” Falsig said. The bright colors, he said, are aimed to resonate with what the store considers to be its main demographic — women between the ages of 20 and 40.

“Our products are often called kawaii (cute),” said Falsig. “Now, back in Europe I wouldn’t be too fond about having our products called cute, but here in Japan, I think it is the best sort of feedback you can get, so we are very happy about that.”

Tiger has chosen Osaka as its entry point into the Japanese market. The first store will open on July 21, followed by at least two more stores later in the year. Though there are no plans yet, Falsig hopes that the chain will eventually make it to Tokyo and other large cities in Japan.