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Business

Japan's Morozoff seeks Southeast Asia sweet spot

Confectionery chain opens Singapore store to spearhead regional expansion

Morozoff's new store in Singapore carries boxed chocolate and cookie sets suitable for gifts.

SINGAPORE -- Tokyo-listed Japanese confectionery chain Morozoff opened its first standalone store in Singapore on Friday, with plans to open stores in five countries in Southeast Asia to satisfy the palates of the region's swelling mid-to-upper class.

The new store opened inside Singapore's major shopping mall Plaza Singapura in the city-state's prime shopping district. This marks Morozoff's return to Singapore, where the company had a counter-based operation inside a department store in the 1990s, but had since retreated after the department store's closure.

The store will be operated as a 50-50 joint venture between Morozoff and Uptron, a local retail company that will serve as a distributor for Morozoff's products in Southeast and South Asia. The store carries high-end packaged cookies and chocolates suitable for gifts. The joint venture has ambitious plans. By 2020, it plans to open around 10 stores in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines, including a cafe in Singapore, with the aim of achieving 1 billion yen ($8.76 million) in sales within Southeast Asia.

The first store in Singapore will serve as a showcase for Morozoff's products to gain customer recognition, said Uptron's senior vice president Yoshifumi Taniwaki. Morozoff also plans to introduce freshly-made cheesecakes and puddings, which are among the most popular Morozoff products in Japan, at the cafe to be opened in the city-state.

"We see that Japanese brands are received well in Southeast Asia, and there is a strong demand for high-quality corporate gifts for occasions such as Chinese New Year that we can tap into," said Shinji Yamaguchi, president of Morozoff, at an opening event.

Started as a small chocolate shop in Kobe, Japan, in 1931, Morozoff is one of the country's major confectionery chains, with around 1,185 outlets in Japan and abroad, many of which are run inside department stores. Yamaguchi said the company can leverage its experience of running stores in Japan, as Southeast Asian department stores and shopping malls often have large spaces dedicated to food and beverage outlets and counter stalls.

As department stores in Japan struggle with sales, Morozoff has been increasing its exposure abroad, especially in Asia. Last year, the company acquired a confectionery company in Hong Kong to strengthen its reach across the region. Outside Japan, Morozoff currently has stores in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Dubai and mainland China.

Singapore has been a hotspot for confectionery companies around the world, attracting cafes and retail stores from Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, among others. From Japan, French-style cake shop Henri Charpentier and cream bun specialty chain Hattendo have entered the market in the last few years.

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