Facing intense competition from foreign rivals selling brand-name products, Japanese jewelry stores are countering with their own initiatives.
Mikimoto Boutique opened a temporary store on the central street of Tokyo’s Ginza shopping district in June, offering 400 different kinds of products, ranging from watches to tableware.
It will stay open until December next year while the company’s main store undergoes renovation.
Down the street from the boutique is the Tokyo store of the world-famous Tiffany & Co., while Cartier and Chanel outlets are also located nearby.
The temporary boutique is operated by the celebrated old Mikimoto pearl store, which opened Japan’s first exclusive pearl shop in the Ginza in 1899.
Unlike the home store, where expensive accessories are on display, Mikimoto Boutique handles products at more affordable prices.
Hot-selling items include cell phone straps and ball-point pens that feature attached pearls. These products sell for around 10,000 yen apiece.
Masazumi Gotoda, a Liberal Democratic Party member of the House of Representatives, and his actress bride, Maki Mizuno, chose Mikimoto photo frames as gifts for their wedding reception guests.
Atsushi Sakaguchi, 44, a sales promotion manager, claimed no foreign brand products are as complete as Mikimoto’s with regard to pearl-related items.
He said new customers will gather if foreign companies make progress in their attempts to establish stores in Tokyo, giving Japanese stores more opportunities to offload their domestic brand goods.
About half of Mikimoto Boutique’s customer membership cardholders are women in their 20s and 30s.
The store has attempted to expand its clientele by selling pearl products at lower prices.
The domestic jewelry market grew to more than 3 trillion yen in 1991, the year after the collapse of Japan’s asset bubble. But it dropped to 1.25 trillion yen last year, according to Yano Research Institute.
Despite the bubble’s burst, the Mikimoto group retained steady sales, opening directly managed stores in succession, including outlets in Roppongi Hills in Tokyo and Yananba Parks in Osaka.
Kyoto-based Niwaka is an emerging jewelry maker that its president, 53-year-old Toshikazu Aoki, developed in 1979.
His company gives Japanese names to the rings it produces, such as Nadeshiko (a wild pink), Jougen no Tsuki (waxing moon) and Takasegawa (a canal in Kyoto).
It keeps no goods in stock. Instead, company craftsmen make each product by hand on order.
The company accepts many kinds of orders, including grinding the surface of stones.