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Friday, May 11, 2012

Retailers gear up for Cool Biz blitz


Department store operators are vying to jump on the bandwagon of the government's Cool Biz summertime casual wear campaign, hoping to promote their products before summer begins in earnest.

News photo
Cool campaign: A salesman explains Cool Biz light summer clothes to a customer at the Daimaru department store in Tokyo's Marunouchi district on May 1. KYODO

The campaign, which was first launched in 2005 with the aim of reducing electricity use for air conditioners in the summer, officially started on May 1 for a six-month run through the end of October.

Retailers are rushing to present a series of fashionable styles to catch high demand amid lingering concerns over possible power shortages due to the shutdowns of nuclear reactors across the country.

In early April, colorful shirts, jackets and pants hit the shelves at the men's annex of Isetan Mitsukoshi Holdings Ltd.'s flagship Isetan outlet in Tokyo's Shinjuku district.

While the official launch of the company's Cool Biz campaign was scheduled for Wednesday, one month earlier than last year, the selling season had effectively kicked off already.

The operator will soon boost its lineup of short-sleeved shirts in response to shoppers' requests.

"Now that they are used to wearing casual outfits in summer, an increasing number of men change their clothes depending on the weather and situation," said a staffer at Isetan, which recommends that customers don lightweight scarves instead of ties.

Sogo & Seibu Co., a unit of Seven & I Holdings Co., set up a section dedicated to Cool Biz items at its main Seibu store in Tokyo's Ikebukuro district on April 11, some two weeks earlier than last year.

Combinations of blazers and cotton pants are selling well, a Sogo & Seibu official said.

The company aims to boost its Cool Biz-related sales through the end of August by 30 percent on a year-on-year basis.

Takashimaya Co. is pitching combinations of shirts and vests, while Daimaru Matsuzakaya Department Stores Co., under J. Front Retailing Co., is highlighting clothes coordination on iPads.

Sales of polo shirts fared well during last year's shopping spree, but department store operators have also found themselves faced with a dilemma.

"It's a minus if sales of ties and high-priced suits decline," an official at a major department store operator said.

To ward off such a trend, Hankyu Hanshin Department Stores Inc., an H2O Retailing Corp. arm, has developed thin and lightweight ties jointly with a manufacturer.

Meanwhile, business attire chain Aoyama Trading Co. hopes to ratchet up its Cool-Biz related sales by 20 percent with an extensive lineup of washable suits.

Rival Haruyama Trading Co. is eyeing a 50 percent sales jump by offering 380-gram breathable jackets, among other products.

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