Japan Loses Its Taste for Luxury

From food to handbags, high-cost items are suffering
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 21, 2009 7:31 AM CDT
Japan Loses Its Taste for Luxury
A woman pushes a baby carriage by a Louis Vuitton boutique in Omotesando shopping district in Tokyo, Japan, Monday, June 29, 2009.   (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)

Hundred-dollar melons and pricey designer handbags used to sell so well in Japan that companies considered luxury goods a mass-market sector. But while the Japanese kept on shopping through previous recessions, this one has produced a sea change. The luxury industry has been hard hit, and the change may be permanent, the New York Times reports. The local version of Wal-Mart, in the red for seven years, is finally on track to turn a profit this year.

In supermarkets, Japanese are buying local bean sprouts instead of $4 cabbages, while clothing retailers are in a price war over $10 jeans. LVMH, the luxury conglomerate that owns Louis Vuitton, has canceled plans for a new Tokyo boutique, as the once must-have bags go out of fashion. "People used to feel they needed a Louis Vuitton to fit in," said one 19-year-old. "But younger girls don’t think like that anymore." (More Japan stories.)

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