Japan Megatrends and a Market Update with 3 Experts Including Debbie Howard

Posted by: Doug Bruhnke - Global Chamber on Friday, May 15, 2020

Business opportunities everywhere are changing right before our eyes in this globalized world. Despite the trouble cause by the pandemic, some markets and industries are finding their ways forward, including in Japan. Global Chamber® was pleased to host three top experts on the Japanese market, who each shared perspectives from their unique viewpoints as long-term foreign residents and business leaders in Japan. The discussion was focused on Japan.

Included in the discussion was the topic of regional mega-trends including how these are changing (or not) in light of the COVID-19 situation, and how companies – both large and small – are faring. Watch the entire discussion HERE. Great info!

Also click HERE for the free market summary document from Debbie Howard of CarterJMNR.

The framework of the discussion included the following.

  • Brief outline of the current situation in Japan – Deborah Hayden
  • Market research on the impact of Covid-19 – Debbie Howard
  • Work from home discussion, uptake in large firms – Deborah 
  • Work from home, uptake by small and medium firms – Catherine O'Connell
  • Work from home, case study (Carter JMRN) – Debbie
  • Impact on business by Covid-19, large firms – Deborah
  • Impact on business by Covid-19, SMBs including trends – Catherine
  • What does CarterJMRN research show about consumers? – Debbie
  • What companies have performed well in this environment? – Deborah
  • Are there SMEs that are surviving and thriving? – Catherine
  • What changes are you seeing in ways of doing business? – Debbie
  • What opportunities exist for companies with large firms? – Deborah
  • What opportunities are emerging for SMEs and in services? – Catherine  

Included in our conversation was this for Debbie... "What does research for Carter JMRN show, Debbie? Which segments are having difficulties now, and which segments are doing well?"

  • Areas struggling with COVID-19 situation include non-essentials such as restaurants and hospitality; group activities (including concerts and entertainment shows), theme parks and cinemas, luxury fashion goods and jewelry, even taxi transportation.
  • Areas of opportunity during this time and short-term, going forward: digital entertainment (video games and streaming), convenience and lifestyle (home delivery services), wellness (supplements, relaxation products, even skincare), online sales, online training and skills development (online education, e-books), HH electronics and digital devices.

And for Catherine, one of the questions that we weren't able to cover fully was... "What are you hearing from business owners and lawyers on the ground about opportunities that are emerging for SMEs and service industries"?

  • Re-opening Japan’s borders: Japan has selectively shut out 90 countries, but that leaves 100 open. So there is less pessimism about the re-opening of Japan as it will open up to business travel earlier and get going faster than other countries.
  • NZ Trade example: New Zealand trade results for March just released, showed New Zealand reached a record high for trade in the past 30 years, despite 100% border shut down. So that is a surprising paradox.
  • Online pitching contests, meetups and membership-based groups have been surging in popularity. It is a great time to pitch to cash-rich businesses in Japan
  • Development of e-commerce platforms is on the rise. Product launches are moving online. Even manufacturing companies are pivoting to this. Also there is an increase in utilizing of new employees who are young and savvy, to help immediately in leveraging the e-marketplace.
  • On-line medical consultations and prescriptions have been enabled to be issued by fax (really!) which is a revolutionary step as consultations and scripts are done only in person. Hopefully that will move to email soon. Companies also accepting invoices by soft copy instead of hard copies sent by postal mail.
  • Employee new hires traditionally take place in April in Japan. One of the largest employers in Japan I know has taken the entire hiring process online from virtual interviews to virtual on-boarding/training.

And one of the questions for Deborah was... "What opportunities exist for international companies with large Japanese firms?".

  • Definitely IT. There has been a huge interest in remote working, sales of equipment and software to enable this.
  • The way of work will change – it will be a uniquely Japanese solution, but opportunities exist, nonetheless.
  • Some specific areas of opportunities exist in e-health, e-learning, fintech, e-workstyles.
  • We're moving toward some form of shared space – and closer to people’s homes.


00:00 – Multi-Metro Globinar begins

  • Debbie Howard - Chairman at The Carter Group/CarterJMRN
  • Deborah Hayden - Managing Director at Finsbury
  • Catherine O'Connell - Founder and Principal at Catherine O'Connell Law

00:30 – Q&A Session

01:00 - End 

Debbie Howard - Chairman at The Carter Group-Japan Market Resource Network - Debbie has lived and worked in Japan for over 30 years, and founded Japan Market Resource Network (JMRN) in 1989. Debbie is a specialist in translating qualitative research into clear strategic direction for international clients, and over her career has worked with most major brands that have entered Japan.

She served as President of the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ) in 2004 and 2005, Chairman in 2006 and 2007, and continues to serve as ACCJ President Emeritus.

Howard has addressed international marketing and business development audiences in the U.S., Japan, Australia, Hong Kong and Thailand, and has facilitated executive-level ideation and strategy development workshops for multi-national companies
such as Daimler-Chrysler, Burberry and American Express. Contact Debbie.

Deborah Hayden - Managing Director at Finsbury. Deborah brings over 30 years’ experience in financial and corporate communications to Finsbury, a leading global corporate and financial communications agency. She is a widely recognized expert on communications issues in Japan and Asia.

She joined Finsbury in 2019 from Edelman Japan, where she was responsible for Financial, M&A and Capital Markets Communications. She played a significant role in evolving Edelman’s capabilities in Financial Communications in Japan and the Asia Region.

Deborah is a vice-chair of the ACCJ's Alternative Investment and Women in Business Committees, and she is a senior advisor to the New Zealand Trade & Enterprise Beachhead Committee which advises companies on Japan market entry. Contact Deborah

Catherine O'Connell - Founder at Catherine O'Connell Law. Catherine has lived and worked in Japan for over 17 years, and is the first foreign female lawyer to launch a law firm in Japan. As a bilingual (English & Japanese) lawyer, she has a deep knowledge of Japanese business culture and practices.

Utilizing both her corporate and private practice experience, she supports corporations - both multi-national and Japanese - with services ranging from General Counsel to ad-hoc or project-based advisory.

Catherine serves as Vice Chair of the Australian & New Zealand Chamber of Commerce in Japan, and also as Legal Services & IP Committee Chair for the ACCJ, and also as a Vice President for Women in Law Japan. Contact Catherine.




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