Mounds of presents, the aroma of cinnamon , the strains of Silent Night: it must be ..... August. It's hard to get in the Christmas spirit when it's 32 degrees outside, but Lush certainly did their best when they mounted their Christmas promotion in my house on the Embassy compound in Tokyo last week. Santa's soap-making grotto in a marquee in the garden, Rudolph-shaped chocolate body scrubs on the dining table, Christmas-pudding-lookalike bathbombs on the mantelpiece and some 500 media writers and photographers lapping and snapping it all up for their November/December editions.
I was particularly pleased to be able to host this two-day event as Lush was one of my earliest customers when I first worked for UKTI back in the 90s, at the Consulate-General in Osaka. At the time they were planning to enter the market and were looking for locations for a factory for their freshly-made soaps and bath products. Now, Japan is their largest overseas market, with almost 150 stores, the highest-grossing store in their entire network (in Shinjuku, Tokyo), 1600 staff and a loyal following among Japanese consumers who rate their natural, innovative and fun products at reasonable prices.
Foreign retailers haven't always had an easy ride in Japan - Boots tried and withdrew and Tesco have just announced that they are seeking a buyer for their chain of 120+ stores. But Lush, along with BodyShop, Paul Smith, Cath Kidston, Next and many more have proved that with the right formula it is possible to succeed in this demanding market. Top Shop is among the latest British retailers to try their luck here, with, currently, 5 shops in prime locations in major cities.
Consumer spending In Japan has now fully recovered following a period of self-restraint after the traumas of March, although with an enhanced appreciation for value for money alongside the quality and "authenticity" that's always been prized. So if your company is looking to exand overseas do think about Japan and get in touch with us on email@example.com. We'd love to help you see if you can replicate Lush's success.
Now, if you'll forgive me, I'm just off to try out my cranberry Santa soap...
Director of Trade & Investment, UKTI Japan