Exporting to Japan


With a population of 126.9 million, Japan is the third largest global economy. Thanks to Japan based retail consultancy firm World Mode Holdings and Austrade, we have compiled some expert advice for fashion labels wishing to make the leap into the Japanese market!

World Mode Holdings

World Mode Holdings (WMH) is the only solution provider group in Japan operating exclusively in the fashion industry,  providing integrated solutions for ever-diversifying challenges. From recruitment and human resource development to store operations, marketing and consultation, WMH aims to elevate the fashion industry with solutions and contribute to its robust development.

Image | Aje via Flaunter

Image | Aje via Flaunter


Japanese Consumer Trends


How are they unique today?

- Emerging individualism in fashion

- Increasing online buying

- Shift to more service & experience

- Search more for price &value


Where do they buy?

- Decreasing spend at department stores

- Increasing spends in e-commerce


Japanese Retail



- Mature, Safe, Stable

- Both local market buying power and Chinese inbound shopping are strong

- Consumers avid for new brands and trends


Role of agents and consultants

- Distributer - Buy products from brands and resell them to retailers &/or final consumers (low risk)

- Trading Company - Usually, take form of joint venture. Leverage trading companies’ credit and partnership (medium risk)

- Subsidiary - Locally incorporated 100% owned by parent company of the brand (high risk)


Characteristics of successful brands in Japan

- Quality products

- Strong brand image

- Strong brand recognition

- High customer service


For more information,

Contact Keisuke Arai: arai@wmh.co.jp


Austrade is the Australian Government's trade, investment and education promotion agency.

Image | Albus Lumen via Flaunter

Image | Albus Lumen via Flaunter


Apparel & Footwear Market in Japan

- Very competitive – most global fashion brands active in the market.

- Tourism is a rapidly growing sector of the economy. Having attracted over 28 million visitors in 2017, Japan seeking to attract 40 million in 2020.

- Sportswear enjoys attention thanks to athleisure trend and rising interest in lifestyle products.

- Women's office clothing benefits from growing number of women in the workforce.

- Women’s swimwear sees fastest current value growth due to growing trend of night pools and indoor pools.

- Polarisation trend becomes more obvious among price-conscious consumers.

- Consumers tend to spend less on mundane items such as hosiery and everyday clothing, thus private label and small brands remain relatively popular.

- Online sales boosted by smartphone apps but growth remains marginal – already very well established.


E-Commerce Market in Japan

- Japan has a mature e-commerce market underpinned by one of the world’s highest internet connectivity rates and tech-savvy population.

- Major Players – around 40% market share between them; Rakuten & Amazon Japan.

- High proportion of women buying online compared to other markets especially in 25-34 and 35-44 age groups.

- Aus companies can sell direct from their website to Japanese consumers and ship directly without attracting import duties if the value of the product(s) is under JPY 15,500 (Approx AUD 180)

- Austrade Guide to Exporting Online.


Exporting to Japan

1. Plan ahead and research;

- Marketing – very different content preferences and language barrier (English is not widely spoken in business).

- Pricing – accounting for shipping costs, duties and taxes.

- Market entry and distribution methods (retail, e-commerce).

- Sizing - should you adapt local sizing.

- Need to convince consumer to buy, reluctant to return (bigger decision to buy).

2. Build good relationships and find a local partner;

- Japanese business culture is long term and relationships are incredibly important.

- Visit the market, network, build relationships.

3. Be unique – tell a story, find your niche and market segment.


Export Market Development Grant

- Encourages small- and medium-sized Australian businesses to develop export markets.

- Reimburses up to 50 per cent of eligible export promotion expenses above $5,000 provided that the total expenses are at least $15,000.


Japan Australia Economic Partnership Agreement

- 2018 marks year four of entry into force for the Japan Australia Economic Partnership Agreement (JAEPA); 96 per cent of Australian products now entering Japan duty-free

- To be eligible under JAEPA – goods must be of Australian origin.

- If your goods are made in Australia, the DFAT FTA Portal is a the ultimate tool for looking up import duty rates under Australia’s free trade agreements.


For more tips on exporting and ensuring you're ready for the international market, follow the links below recapping our recent information sessions on export in Sydney and Melbourne: