A growing number of retail corporations that once sold mostly over the counter are concentrating more on the mail-order market, made popular by the Internet and television shopping programs.
Companies appear to be encouraged by the steady growth of mail-order sales, which have been unaffected by economic highs and lows.
Oriental Land Co., the operator of Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo Disney Sea, is one company that has been affected by the trend.
In fiscal 2003, the number of visitors to its theme parks hit a record high 25.47 million.
Oriental Land has formed a tieup with Japan Post, under which Japan Post stocks mail-order catalogs and takes orders at its post offices nationwide for Ikspiari, the company’s commercial complex adjacent to Tokyo Disney Resort.
In addition, Retail Networks, an Oriental Land group company, plans to sell Disney Store goods over the Internet starting in July.
Suntory Ltd., which established a mail-order house in 1978 to sell alcoholic beverages to retail shops, has also been influenced by consumer demands and has widened its range of products available through mail order to include health food and furniture made from whiskey barrels.
Ajinomoto Co., one of Japan’s largest manufacturers of food products, has started selling amino acid-based cosmetics by mail order.
Catalog House, the publisher of Tsuhan Seikatsu, which boasts a readership of 1.3 million, handles only select items, of which it sells some 1,000 a year.
The company describes itself as environmentally conscious and claims it will handle items that “do not bother the Earth and living creatures.” It has also started selling recycled items.
Takahisa Matsuo, public relations officer at Catalog House, said, “At a time when sticker prices keep declining due to deflation, it is meaningless to stress low prices.
“What is important is to provide customers with information on products attractive to them.”
According to the Japan Direct Marketing Association, mail-order sales have been increasing since fiscal 1999 and reached about 2.6 trillion yen in fiscal 2002.
“The increase can be attributed to the fact that the means for doing mail-order business, such as the Internet, have increased and mail order is a more appropriate way to sell products appealing to particular groups of customers than over-the-counter sales that focus on hit products,” an industry insider said.
“Mail-order sales in fiscal 2003 are expected to post a further increase,” he said. The figures for fiscal 2003, which ended in March, are to be released this summer.
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