TOKYO -- Japanese health and beauty retailers are expanding their reach across Asia thanks to three simple words: made in Japan.
As Asia's middle-income earners become more concerned about the safety and quality of the products they use, they are increasingly opting for Japanese shampoos, cosmetics and sanitary goods, such as disposable diapers.
Kenko.com, an online healthcare retailer under Japanese e-tailer Rakuten, will start offering these and other health-related products in Malaysia and Taiwan this year via virtual shopping malls operated by its parent company. Last year it began services in China and Singapore through Tmall, an online shopping site operated by China's Alibaba. It currently handles 300 to 600 items but hopes to boost the product lineup to 1,000 to 2,000 there.
Later this month, the company plans to open a distribution center in Hong Kong to handle the shipment of 600 popular items to Asian markets. For China-bound products, distribution costs from Hong Kong will be 30% less than if they were shipped from Japan.
Tsuruha Holdings, a drugstore operator, plans to expand its outlet network in Thailand from the current 15 stores to 35 by May 2015. It will mainly open stores in Bangkok and in shopping malls in the suburbs.
Tomod's, a drugstore operator under Japanese trading house Sumitomo, plans to increase the number of stores in Taiwan from the current three to 50 by the end of 2018. It will switch more than half of the roughly 7,500 items it sells in Taiwan to products made in Japan or Japanese brands.
"Japanese brands are 20% to 30% pricier than local products, but they are selling well," an official at Tomod's said. The company projects sales of 300 million yen ($2.9 million) in Taiwan for 2014 and hopes to increase that figure to 5 billion yen by the end of 2018.
Better than local
Unicharm plans to boost domestic production of high-end disposable baby diapers for export to China by the end of the year with an eye on increasing the value of shipments five- to sixfold in 2014 compared to a year earlier.
The Japanese sanitary-goods maker produces disposable diapers in China, but demand for products made in Japan is continuing to surge. Many Chinese visitors stock up on Unicharm diapers when they come to Japan in the belief that they are of higher quality than the ones produced in China, even though both are of the same brand.
Unicharm says a boost in China-bound shipments will not hurt its domestic supply.