Even before the rough economic times started, the Japanese consumer market was viewed as one of the world's most advanced. Driven by sophisticated and demanding consumers, Japanese companies are highly evolved as innovators in the areas of product, packaging, channels, and services. And they've been dealing with downturns since Japan's financial crisis began in the early 1990s. The combination of demanding consumers and prolonged economic hard times has taught Japanese companies how to adapt, and some are emerging as perennial winners.
That's why executives from the rest of the world are looking to Japan to see how it's possible not only to ride out the turbulence but also to increase profits and fuel growth despite the downturn. By understanding how consumer habits are changing, and by anticipating trends, winning Japanese companies have created new products, shifted distribution channels, redefined the basis of competition, and learned where they can—and can't—trim costs. In other words, they ferreted out opportunities presented by a downturn and emerged as even stronger competitors.
Who's still buying what in Japan? The country is one place where older shoppers have the greatest buying power. Our analysis of data between 2000 and 2006 finds that the nation's most influential consumers are families whose heads of households are over 50 years old. They account for 80% of consumers' financial assets and income, and that segment has continued to grow as Japan is one of the most rapidly aging countries.
Read the full article at BusinessWeek.com.