Blog | Tuesday 12 July 2016
Francesca Henriques, former Marketing Intern at UKTI Japan, explores the relationship between the Japanese and their pets and looks at the lucrative pet market in Japan.
The Pet Market in Japan is a Niche But Profitable Sector
Getting George ready to leave the flat was no easy task. Yuriko had been up for hours packing for the three of them to go to Karuizawa for a weekend break. The raincoats were packed, change of clothes for dinner, gourmet healthy snacks, portable bed for George, water for the journey and the buggy was ready.
She glanced at George who was looking worried, sitting on a suitcase with plaintive eyes. He had been given a new haircut the day before and was sporting his new denim dungarees. Yuriko wanted to be proud of him in the hotel dining room so had invested in a new evening shirt and hoped he would sit quietly at their table.
The monthly hairdos cost her over JPY 11,000 (GBP 70) but they were worth it. His golden blond hair was the envy of many. What she was really looking forward to was watching George swim in the hotel pool and running around outside, like every growing boy should.
Yuriko and Toshi have no children of their own, like many couples in Tokyo today. George is their pride and joy, a golden retriever that cost about half a million yen (GBP 3,250) in their local pet shop.
Japanese Owners Dote on Their Pets
Admittedly, Japan is not home to the highest number of pets worldwide, nor does it boast the highest pet per household figure. However, lavish spending on pets has been reaching unprecedented heights. Many dogs have their own rooms and wardrobes –the contents of which would be the envy of any human. With luxury brands, jewellery, sunglasses and even their own furniture, these pets are leading the high life. Pet hotels, spas, and yoga lessons, are also among the many luxuries available - and in high demand.
Imagine the equivalent of helicopter parents who both try and want to provide their children with every advantage, I like to think of them as pet parents, who similarly care for and pamper their cherished children - notably so with high-end pet foods, often organic and holistic or rich with meat, poultry and fish. This is great for the pet market and those interested in exporting to Japan. Pet food importation is not difficult; there are almost no restrictions and very little duty - with the exception of some products with a protein content higher than 35%.
Japanese Consumers Enjoy Pet Products From Overseas
There is a very special connection that people feel towards their pets that is largely intangible, although the investment in their quality of life can be somewhat demonstrative of this relationship. Owners are not just looking to provide a home for their pets. The very emotional category of spending on pet care has resulted in a surprisingly resilient market even across multiple economic cycles. The highly mature market here in Japan is weighted positively towards products from abroad with 52.3% of supplies sold in 2013 being imports, perhaps partly due to the very low duty percentages on the products.
Any animal lover would want to reward their pooch for their undying loyalty and unconditional love. Think Lassie, or more relevant here in Tokyo the incredibly famous Hachiko. Most people who are new to Tokyo will know Hachiko simply as ‘the dog’ – a statue outside Shibuya station – used predominantly as a meeting point in the otherwise overwhelming hub. In brief, he became known for the years he spent patiently waiting outside the station for his master long after his death. This poetic preservation of the tale of a man and his pet makes the appreciation of animals and the corresponding expenditure on them unsurprising.