JoJo works so hard – pleasing many customers across the world – a well earnt play is long overdue but this Playtime is far from a run around in a park or playground…
Playtime is a twice yearly Trade Show bringing lots of very beautiful, quirky and unusual children’s brands together in 3 locations around the world; New York, Paris and Tokyo.
I have just returned from the latter and despite showing our polar fleece, knitwear and corduroy Autumn/Winter ’12 ranges in 40 degree heat, the Japanese retailers have fallen ever so slightly in love with JoJo.
Although we have had a lot of interest from independent boutiques in Japan, language barriers make things very difficult so an established and respected distributor has been appointed to manage the growth of JoJo.
Playtime is a very different kind of Trade Fair with installation art every 20 steps, an obvious competitive streak between each stand: all striving to be recognised as having the most imaginative and artistic design, and some very very cool people and product.
I was heartened and slightly surprised to see so many British and European brands on show which only further underlines the Japanese love of all things non-Japanese! I’ve discovered they love anything French sounding, they played dated French disco music over the sound system all day and they prefer it if any marketing images of your ranges are NOT using Japanese children! We should do well…
Retail sales are OK here climbing by 5.8% vs last year and household spending was also up by 2.6% on 2011.
Birthrates hit an all time low in 2005 but have climbed to 1.29 recently, giving the children’s sector reason to be cheerful. And whilst the birthrate is still low, families spend a LOT on their precious one: 12% of their yearly income goes on children’s clothing compared to 7% on dad! Also the postwar baby boom generation: grandparents, are the wealthiest group in the country, often newly retired and on huge pensions and they love treating their grandchild.
This is a difficult market though and even if you can get through the long list of business etiquette do’s and don’t's, sizing issues and labelling requirements, there’s an unusual pile of tests your product must pass. The most controversial test is unique to Japan and it dictates that all clothing for babies and children must be formalin-free and sold in the poly bags they are delivered in!
So much for all the chic and beautifully contemporary kidswear sections in the big Department stores: Barneys, Isetan and Mitsukoshi. Every item of clothing has a bag over it which rather ruins the look!
Formalin, a chemical normally associated with preserving dead bodies, is regarded as an irritant to young skin so all clothes have to be tested pre-packing. Given this is an airborne chemical and might be in paint that the Barneys odd-job man could be decorating the loo with, nothing can be unpacked giving all Japanese mums the security they need. If you come across a store where a range is actually without a bag, it can’t be sold and is only for display.
I’m no scientist but given that apparently any formalin in the fabric can be removed with just one wash, this test seems a tad excessive and adds huge extra cost to the product being sold.
There is a huge lobby against the test and the Government are deciding if this 40yr rule can be quashed in 2014 so until then the tests, formalin-free certificates and bags remain.
JoJo of course respects this and I can confirm we have no formalin in our clothes. I’m also delighted to say that after a very exciting 3 days, Barneys – along with many others – not only fell for the product but will be stocking us immediately and carrying next Springs ranges too!
Our distributors won on a creative level too – I think we were also the most photographed stand. I initially thought it was because I was an Englishman wearing a Harris tweed jacket in a hot sticky hall but apparently not.