Shopper sentiment mixed in Japan

03 November 2011

TOKYO: Consumers in Japan remain in highly mixed mood following the natural disasters which hit the country earlier this year, and are also asking new questions of companies and brands.

JWT, the agency, surveyed 500 adults in the country, and reported 92% of participants were feeling "nervous or anxious", up from 91% in April 2011 and ahead of the 89% posted in March 2009.

However, the proportion of respondents who were "very nervous or anxious" reached 46%, an increase of sixteen percentage points on April 2011 and 21 percentage points on March 2009.

Around 90% of those polled expressed concerns about experiencing more natural disasters and the safety of the nuclear power supply, although these figures had declined from six months ago.

Another 83% of the panel outlined worries regarding the rising cost of living, while 77% believed residents of other countries may now have a "negative image" of Japan, totals once again decreasing from April.

Elsewhere, 28% of people questioned concurred life in Japan is already "returning to normal", 14% anticipated this should occur soon, the same number as predicted this would take place in 2012.

An additional 15% of interviewees forecast 2013 was a more likely date for an improvement in the situation, matching the score among those not sure conditions may ever resume their prior shape.

More broadly, 94% of contributors thought there were "many serious problems to fix" if Japan is to become prosperous again, and 86% suggested the earthquake would force the country to deal with issues it has "avoided facing before".

Equally, 56% of the sample asserted that the earthquake had "galvanised" Japan and is acting as a "catalyst for positive change".

Less favourably, 78% argued recent events had shown the political system is "eroded", and 64% agreed they proved politics and business are too closely connected, limiting competition.

For 60%, the fallout from this year's earthquake had demonstrated that Japanese firms are becoming less competitive globally, 54% stated indigenous enterprises were "too cautious and conservative".

A 38% share of participants believed big corporations had reacted well to the crisis, and 61% trusted business motivations and the related information provided by companies.

"The sense of lack of vision, leadership and direction is spilling over from government to domestic companies," said Jordan Price, of JWT Tokyo. "For brands that can engineer a positive change from business as usual, the rewards can be significant, given the nation's sentiments."

Data sourced from JWT; additional content by Warc staff