China still key market for retailers

JIJI

Major Japanese retailers are still banking on China and its 1.3 billion people even though bilateral relations have been exacerbated by the Senkaku Islands dispute, particularly after Tokyo nationalized three of the East China Sea islets last month.

Anti-Japanese demonstrations erupted in a number of Chinese cities following the Japanese government’s purchase of three of the five Senkaku islets, called Diaoyu in China, on Sept. 11, with some retail outlets damaged by violent protesters.

“We don’t think that the increasing anti-Japanese sentiment in China will have a major impact” on the company’s operations, Seven & I Holdings Co. President Noritoshi Murata said.

At a news conference last Thursday to announce the retail group’s earnings for the March-August first half, Murata also said Seven & I has no plan to rethink its plan to increase the number of Seven-Eleven convenience stores in China.

Lawson Inc. President Takeshi Niinami said his convenience store chain will promote its business in China as planned.

Still, Seven & I public relations officials said the pace of the group’s new store openings could be slowed as it is spending more time on finding better venues for new outlets in some cities, including Chengdu in the province of Sichuan, and in Beijing.

Supermarket operator Aeon Co. plans to continue fostering its operations in China even though its Jusco supermarket in Qingdao, Shandong Province, was attacked by protesters last month.

In late September, the company announced plans to launch three new large shopping malls, in Tianjin, Suzhou and Guangzhou, in the second half of 2014.

Convenience store operator Ministop Co. still plans to actively open new stores in China, said its president, Nobuyuki Abe.

But the company said it now aims to achieve its target of raising the number of its Chinese stores to 100 in the next business year at the earliest, instead of within the current year as previously envisioned. As of the end of June, it had 40 stores in China.

Many Japanese retail industry officials said moves among Chinese to boycott Japanese products appear to be subsiding.

Household goods retailer Ryohin Keikaku Co., which had 44 outlets in China as of Aug. 31, saw its sales in the nation in late September fall about 20 percent from the level before ties worsened, company officials said. But sales started to pick up again this month, they said.