Japan Today
executive impact

Furniture importer sells a lifestyle

By Taro Fujimoto

As individuals’ lifestyles in Japan become more diversified, so, too, do interior design styles in the home. In 2007, the household furniture market in Japan amounted to 864.7 billion yen, while the office furniture market was worth 453.9 billion yen, according to the Yano Research Institute. Furniture retailers are now becoming “lifestyle shops,” as low-priced furniture brands, such as IKEA Japan, Nitori and Franc Franc, represent the new interior design trend.

One of the pioneers in importing and introducing luxury furniture brands from Europe to Japan is Actus Co, Ltd. The company currently imports such brands as Italy’s “porada,” Germany’s “TECTA,” and Denmark’s “eilersen.” Actus also manufactures original furniture brands and household items.

Heading up the company is CEO Akira Kyuyama. Born in Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture, he studied business management at college and became a salesman for a company that produces bolts for construction work at buildings and bridges. Kyuyama joined Actus in 1985. He says he had always been interested in the interior design business. He has held his current position since last September.

Japan Today reporter Taro Fujimoto visits Kyuyama at the company’s headquarters and showroom in Shinjuku to hear more about Actus’ business and the furniture/interior design market in Japan.

What are Actus’ main lines of business?

We have three areas of business. One is interior consultation for corporate clients for apartments, hospitals and schools. Another is wholesale for furniture retailers nationwide. The third is direct retail shops for consumers. Roughly speaking, about 70% of sales are from our direct retail business at our 17 shops nationwide, 20% from the wholesale business, and 10% from our interior consultation service.

What attracted you to a furniture importing company?

At the bolt manufacturer I joined after graduating from university, I just couldn’t get interested in the technical specifics of the products I was selling. I had always been interested in Western furniture and found the quality of design quite high, although there were few magazines on furniture in Japan in the 1980s.

Who are your target consumers?

We target those who like the “European,” “Scandinavian” or “Simple-modern” furniture style. In the past, we used to target so-called DINKS (Double Income No Kids) couples who have time and money enough to realize their original lifestyles through our interior design concept. However, we are seeing more families with small children as customers requesting furniture for children.

What is the furniture market in Japan like?

Until the 1980s, the furniture market in Japan was largely dependent on weddings and whether couples could afford to build houses. In those days, the parents of newly married couples used to buy new furniture for them. Nowadays, the needs of consumers are much more diversified.

What trends do you see?

In an unstable economic situation like now, we are seeing a demand for more natural and organic-style furniture. The home is becoming a place to seek relaxation.

What do you think of low-priced furniture brands such as IKEA?

We’re not competing with them. We are not selling products but lifestyles. At our showrooms, we create a so-called “Digital Style Book” by scanning customers’ floor plans, so we can suggest furniture arrangements to meet their lifestyles and decor.

What is the current housing situation in Japan?

Houses or apartments in Japan are downsizing, according to our planners who always check the latest housing trends. But it is also true that houses in the urban area are smaller, and those in suburban areas of the countryside are larger. So the need for furniture differs from area to area.

What kind of requests do you receive from corporate clients?

In the past, furniture makers just manufactured products based on their production preferences, and companies and organizations took very little interest in interior design. Our corporate clients, however, now have more requests. Schools and community-based maternity clinics, for example, prefer relaxing interiors for their pupils and patients.

What is the impact of the recent economic downturn on your business?

The number of contracts with corporate clients has been decreasing in the current economic downturn. However, sales of household items have increased by about 10% as many people visit our shops and showrooms.

What challenges do you see?

We need to cut maintenance costs for direct retailers and employment costs somehow.

What are your future prospects?

We would like to increase the base of family consumers more as well as appeal our products to different B-to-B segments in cooperation with office supply company Kokuyo Corp which is our shareholder. We also would like to suggest more ideas to housing developers, such as Sekisui House Corp, which is another shareholder.

What is your working style?

I try to respect our staff’s personalities and areas of expertise. Top-down decision making doesn’t always work.

What’s a typical day for you?

I get up at 7 a.m., and come to the office around 8 a.m. I usually finish working around 9 p.m., and then have dinner with my colleagues or business partners.

How do you spend weekends?

Since my family lives in Kobe, I go back there twice a month. When I have time, I try outdoor activities, such as camping and kayaking. Although I work in the interior design business, I actually love outdoor activities.

For more information, visit: www.actus-interior.com

© Japan Today

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"As individuals’ lifestyles in Japan become more diversified,"

Um, what? More diversified? How exactly?

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dude, please go back to your family and take care of your kids, man. i hate overgrown fathers in japan working like ghosts to loose track of more important things in life.

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Since my family lives in Kobe, I go back there twice a month.

Omg. Lol workaholic ;P

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Furniture Owner Sells Furniture.

For lifestyle, check out the shops in Dogenzaka.

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