Bridal Fashion in Japan: Buying VS Renting

A very competitive market where quality of service and product alike make the difference.

Although the study Novias Millenial y Gen Z: El sector de la moda nupcial en 2023 (Millenial and Gen Z brides: The bridal fashion sector in 2023) by professor José L. Nueno and VBBFW supports the claim that Japan is a country in a slight demographical decrease, it should be noted that we are looking at a market which highly values quality but is, nevertheless, not as sensitive to pricing.

A Different Business Model

The Japanese market has differentiating factors beyond the bridal sector, so it would be advisable to address it with a long term strategy. In Japan, large chain stores have an agent/distributor who advises them on this important process. However, some chains acquire product directly from the brands, in the same manner as usually observed by Western countries. For both models is key the brands’ work to attract the buyers attention and create a product with personality.

The Treat Dressing, Tokyo
The Treat Dressing, Tokyo

Trade managers focus on the sector’s main fairs to acquire product, prioritizing the guarantee of quality in their choice of firm, as it is important for the dress to maintain a good condition since renting is their main transaction method. In general, companies rent each dress five times, or more, if the dress meets all the necessary conditions. These companies are experts at adapting the dress to each and every bride while maintaining them in the best condition.

It is important for the dress to maintain a good condition since renting is their main transaction method.

Key Buying Factors

Punctuality and commitment to the agreed upon delivery date are also relevant factors. The buyers in these stores place great importance on the delivery date of the dress, so much so that it can be a determining factor whether to continue a working relationship with the brand in the future or, on the contrary, cease to work with them. Thus, it is essential to establish a compromise agreement on delivery between brand and store. The breach of this contract may even entail a claim for compensation by the company to the firm. Besides, buyers appreciate the brand adapting to their needs in the face of requests for changes or modifications due to issues with size -which in Japan differs from Western sizing-, design and even color, as they tend towards wedding dresses in pastel color-schemes.

Department Store Isetan, Shinjuku
Department Store Isetan, Shinjuku, Tokyo

Another important factor for Japanese buyers, besides enjoying a wide array of variety in their product supply, is the lack of a minimum purchase amount from the brands. And the thing is, stores consider the prices set usually to be high, seeing as their business model mostly focuses on renting. An 84.9% of brides opt for renting. Purchase is a fringe case. The usual reasons behind a purchase are: a great wish to wear a tailor-made dress possessing the necessary financial resources, getting married in another country or having a wedding on the beach. In this last case, clearly the bride cannot guarantee the return of the dress in optimal conditions and, for that reason, stores are not able to rent it out.

An 84.9% of brides opt for renting. Purchase is a fringe case.

Traveling to Europe for these companies entails access to brands they can offer to future brides, if possible, exclusively. It is their guarantee of distinction in a highly competitive market.

Prices and Retailers

Mostly, Japanese women chose their wedding dress after visiting the multi-brand retailers assigned by the venue, foremost place to acquire this product. After interviews held with several multi-brand Japanese stores, we may conclude the average expense in the purchase or rental of a wedding dress to be between 3.200€ and 7.000€, depending on whether one or two dresses are rented.

Authentique Guinza store in Fuchigami Fines, Tokyo
Authentique Guinza store in Fuchigami Fines, Tokyo

Department stores also offer a broad range of nuptial fashion, although their volume of business in this field is not as significant as that generated by the rest of nuptial items. They are a reference in the purchase of gifts, household items and even jewelry.

The average expense in the purchase or rental of a wedding dress oscillates between 3.200€ and 7.000€, depending on whether one or two dresses are rented.

The Treat Dressing, Mirror Mirror, Micie, Felice Vita, Granmanie, Isetan, Novaresse, Marie Classe or Authentique Ginza are several of the better known stores in Tokyo, some of which are clear references in the bridal business sector and trustworthy partners for international brands in Japan, as they prevail in the sector by offering brides the option to purchase and rent alike.

Conclusions

The starting points for accessing Japan market are understanding renting as the main business model, punctually meeting delivery deadlines and adapting collections to the needs of the market.

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