Some companies doing very well in recession


We already know the bad news -- deficits, production cuts, bankruptcies, layoffs, homelessness, and no end in sight. Shukan Gendai (Feb 21) looks for good news in this murk and, oddly enough, finds it. Some companies, and some individuals, are defying the odds and doing very well, thank you.

Uniqlo, for example. The budget clothing maker seems to have an unerring instinct for what people want and how much they’re willing to pay for it. Its latest success is “heat-tech inner wear” -- warm underwear. “This winter, men and women alike are in its thrall,” comments Shukan Gendai. Sales to date so far: 28 million items.

Or take the Sunshine supermarket chain based in Kochi Prefecture. Supermarkets in general are in dreadful shape, but Sunshine’s 36 outlets are as their name suggests -- flourishing. They call their main gimmick “live marketing.” This turns a supermarket into a theater, store clerks into performers, and you the shopper into an awed spectator of such spectacles as “fire live,” in which steaks on a grill right there in the store shoot tongues of flame, taking the humdrum predictability out of routine shopping. On average, in fiscal 2007 the chain’s profits were up 2% over the previous year -- unimpressive, perhaps, but individually, some member stores showed year-on-year growth above 10%.

IT, like other sectors, is slumping, but Tokyo-based UBIC is living testimony to the power of innovative thinking. Its passport out of the mire has been “legal technology.” This is a new field, an early sign that the law may be starting to catch up with runaway technological development.

Data leaks are a scourge, bringing commercial loss and personal embarrassment. But how to prosecute cases where criminal malfeasance seems involved? So far it has proved all but impossible. Documents are solid and carry weight in court, but electronic evidence, Shukan Gendai explains, is frustratingly elusive -- first because there is so much of it: the average personal computer contains a volume of information that, if printed, would fill four trucks; secondly because, unlike paper evidence, it is easily doctorable.

UBIC president Masahiro Morimoto, 42, was at one time a communications officer in the Maritime Self-Defense Force. He first heard of legal technology as a new and thriving field in the U.S. It made doctoring more difficult and detection easier. It caught his imagination. Perhaps he could be the one to develop it in Japan.

His first attempts to sell the technology here met with a stone wall of indifference. “People I took the idea to,” he tells Shukan Gendai, “would say, ‘Our company is already thoroughly protected against leaks.’”

The turning point came in 2006, the year Livedoor and the Murakami Fund produced famous scandals in which electronic doctoring figured heavily. Suddenly the menace was visible to everyone. UBIC was on its way as Japan’s leading purveyor of legal technology.

Shukan Gendai’s message is a hopeful one. Recessions can be beaten. All you need is the right idea at the right time in the right place.

© Japan Today

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I would like to see one of those food stores. I bet they are really loud and obnoxious.

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The budget clothing maker seems to have an unerring instinct

They probably do. A few million people buy a product just once. And that's enough for this innovative maker. They come up with new ideas all the time, and the quality is reasonable. I wouldn't want to be seen dead in their garments though :-)

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UNiqlo !! the fabulous store in Japan ! quality is good AND AFFORDABLE !!

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