According to the U.S. Commercial Service, Japan is the world’s third-largest economy and fourth-largest buyer of American products, with total purchases amounting to more than $66 billion every year. Certainly, Japan, while remaining a desirable market for U.S. manufacturers, is not an easy market.
The Japanese market is very complex and it can be difficult for American companies to be successful without a partner that has in-depth knowledge of the country’s distribution system. It is often very challenging to make a connection with a Japanese distributor without an introduction. And, when a connection is made, it may take several months to develop a level of trust that will allow a relationship to move forward.
Jokari/U.S., Inc., a manufacturer of kitchen and household products, utilized a large established distributor in Japan and had enjoyed some success. When three key executives of that distributor left the company and started their own distribution company, we had a tough choice: to play it safe and stay with a large established distributor or to take a risk and go with a start-up distributor, Aozora.
We decided to go with the new distributor primarily because of our personal relationship with those three executives who all had comprehensive knowledge and our belief in their ability to expand our business.
Aozora distributes housewares, toys, stationary and hobby products. It sells products to a wide variety of retailers, such as Aeon, Itoyo, Tokyu Hands, Toys R Us and Cainz.
Jokari stills enjoys a successful partnership with Aozora and continues to see growth in the Japanese market. A somewhat risky and difficult decision has worked out well and is a testimony to the importance of developing strong personal relationships with your international partners.