Tuesday, September 17, 2002

Whither the Economy?

I think many of you have heard that Louis Vuitton opened another new store in Omotesando recently. The media say that the sales on opening day reached JPY125m. Apparently, this is a record for a single store. More than 2,800 people visited on opening day, including 1,400 young women who spent up to two days lining up for over one kilometer to get in! The store is a good size: 8 stories aboveground and two floors underground -- all together there is a total of 3,300 sq./m displaying more than 1,500 products.
In this economic downturn, it is unbelievable that Louis Vuitton's sales increased to JPY117.9bn in 2001, a 17.6% increase from the previous year. I'm sure they're happy with the great success, but, it this is not a healthy picture. The Japanese economy is in the pits and a recent survey found that there were 1,718 bankruptcies in July, leaving behind debts of JPY1,161bn. Indeed, an average 1,725 companies have gone bankrupt every month since the beginning of 2002. Unemployment for July was is 5.4%. Deflation is getting worse -- and yet... people are willing to spend so much money on the goods to show their status.
I wonder where the Japanese economy and our society in general is heading...?

Monday, September 02, 2002

Smoking

Have you heard of a nicotine gum called "Nicorette"? It's produced and imported by Pharmacia, and sold by Takeda Chemical Industries. Sales have reached a surprising JPY9bn in just 10 months. The company says that sales indicate about one million people are trying to quit smoking.
Nicorette-type nicotine replacement products originally were invented in Sweden in 1967, to help submarine crew smokers control their cravings. Later in 1978, Pharmacia of Sweden developed the first nicotine gum.
According to survey, the cost of smoking -- including tobacco, lighters, etc., based on two packs a day -- is about JPY180,000 for the average smoker. An additional JPY8trn in public costs is blamed on the social damages caused by smoking: fires, lung disease, etc.
It's ironic that tobacco was once a medicine that was said to be effective for virtually every illness, but it's now the cause of many forms of sickness. I wonder if the ancient Native Americans using their "Calumet" (peace pipe) had any inkling what a huge impact their habit would have on future generations....