Think carefully, then act.


You may be looking to sell a retail item, complex B2B product, high technology item or be offering a service.

Whatever the circumstances, you need to find your end customers, or the intermediary buyers and distributors for your sector.

We have a solution

Our well-networked, multinational staff can support your goals:

We have non-Japanese who have lived in Japan and speak Japanese. We also have Japanese who speak English some of whom have lived abroad.

Our objective when working with clients is to ensure the client retains appropriate control of the brand, so that they can grow with confidence, rather than finding themselves locked in to an unproductive partnership.

We offer a total management solution that ensures that you make the progress you require.

Depending on the product we might work directly on the sales side to open the market. Alternatively we might select respected distributors and actively manage them to ensure they put in the necessary effort. Frequently both can be employed as part of a multichannel approach.

Product Approvals

As part of building your business in Japan, you may also need to consider aspects such as product approval, regulations, import/export and storage.

Although this may feel difficult to achieve in Japan with its unfamiliar language and culture, and make one-stop shosha and distribution houses seem initially attractive, the underlying principles are little different to the efforts required for other countries.

We have a solution

We look at a wide range of opportunities for clients, to ensure that they do not outgrow their initial solution too quickly.

We work with companies to properly plan their entrance to the Japanese market, meaning that instead of rushing into the first opportunity that presents itself (as many do) they take time to learn and explore more fully.

As part of this we get directly involved in various processes so that lessons are learned early on and can be reapplied in the future. Blindly outsourcing processes may save time initially but in fact be storing up issues for the longer term.

Ultimately the decisions made depend on multiple factors including the type of production, budget, timing, resources, characteristics of potential Japanese clients and possible distributors.



Market Opening



General Management

Business Assessment

As part of our work we employ structured methods that help to measure each opportunity objectively relative to what we wish to achieve.

Although there are many inputs one can then summarise the data to make clean decisions that everyone is clear about.

For example one can estimate the need to do each of the following tasks oneself. Similarly one can summarise the same effort that might be required if a partner is used and the see whether the latter is cost effective.

Nobody will know your product better than yourselves, so involvement is absolutely necessary at some level. However the degree of involvement will depend on the type of product and the size of you Japan focused efforts.

The following bulls eye diagrams can be used to illustrate key aspects of each element intended project. For example you may feel after evaluation that a partner is not that strong at market opening but that once sales route are established their countrywide network will be able to play a larger role. Similarly their distribution may be strong but their knowledge of approvals processes weak.

An evaluated potential partner

White Label Management

Historically there has been a divide between the companies with large budgets who could essentially try to buy their way into a new market and small companies that had to rely on distributors.

This is why we promote the concept of white label management for smaller companies wishing to enter Japan.

This enables them to provide key functions within Japan such as local sales and support while keeping costs to an affordable level. This allows the company to grow organically at the correct pace, in response to the market, while controlling the associated on-costs.

Key areas for consideration are:

  1. market opening

  2. distributor management and support

  3. interaction with approvals processes

  4. marketing

  5. customer support

  6. financial


A lack of market understanding can hold back even the largest companies and market entry to Japan has its own fair share of failures. For every success there are similarly failures.

Luxury mega-brands such as Burberry, Louis Vuitton and Coach have found great success while others such as Gieves and Hawkes and Aquascutum have found it more difficult to appeal sufficiently broadly to the modern requirements of the customer.

In cosmetics too it pays to get the message right. While the Sephora cosmetics and Boots chemists had great difficulties in Japan, withdrawing after just two years, companies like Body Shop and Lush have thrived. The Body shop and Lush each have over 150 shops across Japan with the Body Shop using a franchise with Aeon Corp and Lush operating through Lush Japan.

Other sectors such as food have been harsh proving grounds for foreign companies. France’s Carrefour and most recently the UK’s Tesco both withdrew after poorly thought out market entry efforts. It would be reasonable to ask what techniques from its foreign operations Tesco was hoping to impose on the already highly competitive supermarket sector. In contrast, an Itochu joint venture with the luxury delicatessen Dean and Delucca has been a hit with even their canvas shopping bags a must have ‘second handbag’.

People interested in learning properly about real case studies should buy the following excellent book:

International Retailing Plans And Strategies In Asia

By John A. Dawson, Jung-Hee Lee