lifestyle

Chinese speculators buying up diapers in Japan

20 Comments
By Casey Baseel

Despite policies designed to keep the birth rate in check, China remains the most populous nation on the planet. That many people means a lot of new babies every year. And since some Chinese parents have a penchant for keeping their kids dry with Japanese diapers, consumers in Japan have been reporting shortages of Japanese brand Merries, as Chinese speculators in Japan buy up the local stock.

Japanese health and beauty goods manufacturer Kao first released its Merries paper diapers in 1983. The product quickly gained a reputation as being especially gentle on babies’ skin, and has since gone on to capture a sizeable chunk of the Japanese diaper market.

Ordinarily, you can find Merries wherever diapers are sold in Japan. However, over the past few months, shoppers in Japan have noticed something strange. When they head to the store to buy diapers, the Merries are often sold out. But why? Could it be that industrious Japanese babies, inspired by the way so many of their parents dutifully work overtime, are double-timing the production of the only thing they know how to make?

It turns out that Merries are a hit not only in Japan, but in China as well. And with 16 million Chinese babies born annually, demand is so high that it seems there aren’t enough Merries to adequately cover both countries.

So why doesn’t Kao just make more Merries. If they’re so popular in China, the market is probably big enough to justify building a factory for local production, right?

Earlier this year, that’s exactly what Kao did, as operations began at the company’s new diaper production facility in Anhuui Province. The cost benefits of producing in China translates to a cost of 24 yen per diaper, about half of what Japanese-made Merries exported to China go for.

Kao even went the extra mile in tailoring the Chinese-made Merries to the local market, implementing advanced production techniques not even used in the company’s Japan-spec diapers. The Chinese Merries have a special dimpled inner surface, reducing the area of contact with the baby’s behind to reduce rashes, and are also more absorbent than the Japanese version.

Nevertheless, Kao hasn’t been able to convince all of its fans in China to switch over to the locally-produced Merries. Recent product safety scandals involving Chinese-produced goods have apparently weakened the faith of even Chinese consumers in the middle and upper income groups, and several are insisting that regardless of what the spec sheets say the better diaper is, they’re sourcing their Merries from the Japanese domestic market.

Responding to customer demand, online retailing giant Rakuten has added shipping options for customers in Hong Kong, mainland China, and Taiwan on orders for Merries. But if you’re wondering how it makes economic sense to have your diapers delivered from overseas, bear in mind that the Merries craze is so powerful in China that they command astounding premiums, with Japanese-made Merries selling in China for two and a half times their usual price in Japan.

The markup potential is so enticing that a cottage diaper brokering industry has sprung up, with individuals buying up Merries in Japan, then reselling them to customers in China.

“Sometimes I make more than 30,000 yen in a day,” said a Japanese man in his 50s who has been buying Merries and reselling them since June. “If I really felt like it, I could rake in 1 million yen a month.”

It seems several broker groups operating in Japan are made up of Chinese nationals, according to shopper accounts.

“I noticed that since a few months ago, Merries are often sold out at the drugstores in my neighborhood. I asked a clerk why this has been happening, and he filled me in on how Chinese customers come in and buy up all the stock.”

“When I went to the store in June, there was a van parked out front. When I looked inside it, I saw bags filled with Merries,” recalls another Japanese consumer. “Inside the store, I saw a young women filling a cart with them. She checked out, and then about four or five other people helped her carry the bags to the van. I could tell right away they weren’t Japanese. Then they came right back in, and started filling up a cart with Merries again. I was worried they were going to buy up everything, so I panicked and bought two packs myself.”

Some stores in Japan, attempting to ensure an adequate supply for local infants, are limiting Merries purchases to one pack per family, with notices posted in Japanese and Chinese.

One retailer is applying an even trickier method to attempt to prevent stockouts. “In our store, when we put the Merries out on the shelves, they get bought up by Chinese customers. So instead of putting them on display, we only bring them out when customers ask us for them,” the clerk explains.

But despite countermeasures like these, some Japanese shoppers still complain of not being able to purchase Merries for their babies. “I had to special order them through Babies R Us,” laments one parent. Another mother, unable to find Merries anywhere, settled for buying another brand, but was dissatisfied with the looser fit.

Some exasperated consumers in Japan have been taking to the Internet to criticize the diaper speculators. “What’s with them?” grumbled one shopper who observed a diaper broker group making a run. “There was something scary about them, so I moved away from the diaper section.” Another had harsher words still, calling the practice “vulgar and immoral.”

Kao has yet to comment on the situation. And while we can certainly understand the frustration of Japanese shoppers unable to get their hands on Merries, this would be a good time to remember that due to the nature of atmospheric currents, air quality issues in China occasionally affect that of Japan. While no one appreciates a dust storm coming from their neighbor, imagine how much worse it would be mixed with particulate matter from the uncovered behinds of 16 million infants.

Source: Naver Matome

Read more stories from RocketNews24. -- New Must-Have Baby Item: Diaper Sushi -- Bandai gets a head start on Christmas cakes -- “Spray Which Turns Poop Stink into Floral Aroma” Cleverly Designed

© RocketNews24

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.


20 Comments
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Well, on a recent trip back to the UK, taking our little one with us for the first time, I told my mrs not to bother packing too many nappies as we will be able to buy them there no problem. MISTAKE! They were much more expensive than Japanese nappies and the quality was nowhere nearly as good. Even the major brands like Pampers and Huggies were very very average in comparison and our little one came out in a rash. They're just a complete rip off.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Casey, entertaining and nicely textured piece. However, the old cliche about what a writer edits from a story is often more important than what he includes is clearly evident here. You're trying way too hard to be funny in the last paragraph (the meaning of which isn't even entirely clear), and it borders on the ridiculous. Nice overall job nonetheless.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

About four years ago Chinese were buying a particular baby Milk powder from Japanese market. Any how this is the beginning of inter-dependence.. Even though all whole Chinese govt campaign against Japan, the rich and the educated ( world knowledge) Chinese can not live with out Japanese MADE product!!!!!!!. Time to tell the truth....

4 ( +8 / -4 )

Nevertheless, Kao hasn’t been able to convince all of its fans in China to switch over to the locally-produced Merries.

When consumers are happy with Made in Japan, then why to shift the production and give them made in China instead? Let the production stay in Japan!!! greedy corporates. They are adding extra features in Chinese diapers. If it becomes hit in China then we will start seeing those diapers in Japan. Then Japan will not only lose production but also ¥¥¥.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

In the old days Chinese kids used to just wear pants with a vent in the back and were trained to squat down and do their business anyplace. These kaidang ku were much more eco-friendly than disposable nappies.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

Spanki, same here. I was making fun of my wife who wanted to pack nappies, but I've had to admit I was wrong, we were not satisfied at all with the quality of nappies in Europe

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Why don't they just cloth diaper? It's way cheaper and also great at keeping diaper rash away. I find it is also better for babies with sensitive skin.

But at the same time I really hope that the stores are able to keep the stock available for people in Japan who actually need the diapers! I would hate to be a parent and have to settle with a brand that would cause issues with my baby's sensitive skin.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Despite policies designed to keep the birth rate in check, China remains the most populous nation on the planet.

facepalm This "journalist" should go back to school. The reason that diapers are being bought out is because the Chinese government just relaxed the birth rate policies. So Chinese speculators are buying up all manner of baby goods.

You would think that someone who is publishing an article about Chinese buying habits would have some idea about what is happening in China at the moment.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

"the Merries craze is so powerful in China that they command astounding premiums, with Japanese-made Merries selling in China for two and a half times their usual price in Japan."

Something is worth whatever someone is willing to pay for it.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

In the old days Chinese kids used to just wear pants with a vent in the back...

I remember being on a hard berth train across from a mother and grandmother; acting in unison, the former holding up the baby and the latter holding a basin when they knew it was time.

We used disposable diapers when we knew it was "poo-poo" time and cloth diapers when we knew it was" pee-pee" time; that saved time and money.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

It’s time Chinese buy their own diapers and get a taste of their own “food” or to change their country to a place worth living. You can’t cherry-pick forever.

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

If the Chinese won't buy Chinese made diapers, then I think it's time for Kao to severely ramp up domestic production of Merries. Increase and improve Japanese production and hopefully Japanese parents will benefit from lower pricing.

As for their China plant, it could be used for export to other countries less finicky about where their diapers originate from.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

i feel sorry for the japanese who are against this because they are blind to the needs of babies, and profit for their businesses

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

@Spanki,

I can't speak for overseas prices, but my wife and I found Pampers to be the best quality for our child. Go figure :)

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Some exasperated consumers in Japan have been taking to the Internet to criticize the diaper speculators.

How about taking to the Internet to order your diapers?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Not too sure what to think, since now it is not only a diaper problem, but CHINA already has way too many people, and do they need to RELAX their 1 baby policy?? I do not think it is a good idea, better to keep that strict policy and help the Chinese decrease or give $$ to Chinese who DO NOT have babies. We have only 1 planet, and already TOO MANY people, and up to now, China has been trying quite hard to control its population,not like India, etc...maybe they are feeling pressure from India??

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I can't speak for overseas prices, but my wife and I found Pampers to be the best quality for our child. Go figure :)

Yep, my newborn uses Pampers and there is nothing wrong at all with them.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Hong Kong had the same issues with mainlanders coming over to raid the stores in order to protect their children from bad PRC products, but they put a stop to that.

Now, the folks that can afford to protect their kids against the mainland's corruption laced products are buying what they can in Japan.

Hope the Japanese government puts an end to this soon before there is nothing left for the people to buy.

You know you have a real bad product when your populace would rather travel overseas to buy it there!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Mainland Chinese government should be ashamed to see their own citizens losing faith in their own country 's products. It is an International shame!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Hey KAO! I have an idea. How about just making more diapers so they can stay on the shelves in your country? I`m sure you can up production and pay some of your workers a little overtime. No?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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