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Asia300

Where did the middle class go?

Isetan Mitsukoshi head Hiroshi Ohnishi, right, and Adaro Energy CEO Garibaldi Thohir attend a panel discussion in Bangkok on Oct. 7.

BANGKOK -- The rise of an Asian middle class with higher disposable incomes was supposed to be a bonanza for retailers. Yet Japan's leading department store operator, Isetan Mitsukoshi Holdings, is not seeing the kind of sales it was expecting from its shops in China, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Taiwan.

"The middle class is growing. But they aren't purchasing in ways that we thought they would," Hiroshi Ohnishi, the group's president and CEO, said Friday at a business conference in Bangkok hosted by the Nikkei Asian Review.

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