CABINZERO: British Innovation at Work

“Japan is one of many markets that we have entered recently. Mainly I chose Japan at the point we did because of the UKTI Trade Mission. But this kick-started a lot of export development.”

Neil Varden, CabinZero – Founder and CEO

The old adage that necessity is the mother of invention could not ring more true in the case of Neil Varden and his brainchild, CABINZERO. In 1993 Varden, having newly graduated from university in the UK, decided to travel to India for 6 weeks. He enjoyed his trip so much that he returned for a second time, this time for a 6-month stint of backpacking. It was during this trip that his large travel bag quickly fell apart and he resolved, at the end of this second trip, to return to India once again, this time with the perfect bag. Ten years later he was in the travelling product industry, which revealed a gap in the market for a cabin-sized bag that didn’t need to be handled as checked baggage, and Varden decided he was the person to fill it. Fast-forward a few more years and CABINZERO bags can be found in many countries across the globe, including Japan.

“Japan has always been a target market for me, as it is open to new, innovative products and also loves British Brands” says Varden. “The logistics of us supplying Japan are quite easy for us as we can ship direct from our warehouses in Asia or from our office in China. The Japanese also care about high quality, which is also a passion of mine.”

CABINZERO's first foray into the Japanese market was through a distributor found through UKTI's Overseas Market Introduction Service (OMIS) during a UKTI trade mission to Japan, which was organized by Business Link Japan. “The trade mission was good for me,” he explained, “and it gave me great confidence to move forwards knowing that we have a good, marketable brand which received positive feedback in Japan and now in every country that we enter.”

The response in Japan to the bags has been good and is growing rapidly. Varden reveals, “I very much look at Japan as being a long-term growth area, which demands very careful attention to issues like timeliness and quality.” In addition to this he says, “We are also developing individual styles for the Japanese market, in conjunction with our partners there, as I see Japan as such an important market we should even consider it in isolation to other markets if we need to. I very much hope to grow our sales in Japan massively over the next 2-3 years. There will be nothing that will give me more satisfaction than seeing many Japanese customers carrying CABINZERO bags when I visit Osaka (or Tokyo) again.”

Varden’s top tips for success in Japan include having a good, high quality product and being willing to devote a lot of time and effort to developing your business there. “I believe you cannot treat Japan as ‘just another country,’” he explains. “In many ways I see Japan and Japanese consumers as very different (in a positive way) to Western consumers. But communication with business partners is not always easy as English is not always widely spoken."

He believes that essentially, Japan demands a big investment in time and resources to develop there but that this investment will reap big rewards if you have the right product and branding.

For more insight into the consumer goods market in Japan, please see our dedicated Consumer Goods and Fashion pages. 

Fill out our Free Market Assessment form if you would like to find out your market potential in Japan. 

CABINZERO Case Study19.66 MB