3 March 2021
The Weekly

The new service, the first by a major Japanese retailer, will allow customers to rent up to three high-end women's clothing items from foreign and domestic labels for a monthly fee of 11,000 yen ($103). J. Front Retailing hopes to have 30,000 customers and sales of YEN5.5bn to 6bn ($50-60mn) within five years. The subscription service will be handled by J. Front Retailing's subsidiary, Daimaru Matsuzakaya Department Stores. It will initially offer about 50 domestic and foreign brands, including popular labels like Marni of Italy and France's See By Chloe. The service will focus on upscale brands that are popular in department stores. Japanese brands like Epoca, owned by Japanese apparel maker Sanyo, and Adore, which is produced by Tokyo-based TSI Holdings, will also be on offer.

Customers who sign up for J. Front's service will pay a monthly fee that lets them select up to three clothing items, such as jackets or blouses, from a dedicated website and have them delivered directly to their homes. Daimaru Matsuzakaya will bear the cost of cleaning and any repairs. The company will purchase clothing for the service from partner brands and share customer data with them, as well as data on how quickly the clothes wear out. It will also use the information to improve product development and sales promotions. In Japan, apparel startup airCloset and major fashion company Stripe International have launched subscription services. But they have failed to gain much traction in the market, mostly due to their lack of high-priced labels. J. Front Retailing, on the other hand, aims to use its relationships with leading brands to expand its subscription service.

According to Tokyo-based Yano Research Institute, the domestic market for subscription services is expected to exceed YEN1.2tn ($11.2bn) by the year ending March 2025, expanding nearly 1.8 times versus the YEN683.5bn ($6.3bn) logged in the year ended March 2020. Aside from fashion, online streaming services such as Netflix have gained momentum in Japan. Automakers, including Toyota Motor, have also introduced services that let customers drive different car models for a fixed monthly fee. The apparel industry in Japan suffers from chronic overstocking. About 2.8 billion clothing items are brought to market every year, but nearly half of these pieces go unsold, sparking criticism in an era when more customers want sustainable fashion. The United Nations is discussing how to put its sustainable development goals into practice in various industries.