Understanding Distribution in Japan: Selling Directly To Retailers


“We do great business with Best Buy in the U.S., so I’m sure stores in Japan like Yamada Denki, Yodobashi Camera, K’s Denki, and Joshin would love to have our products on their shelves.”

In our experience, this is only partially true.

One key things you need to know about distribution in Japan is that Japanese retailers like the companies listed may be quite interested in selling your products, but they will rarely be interested in doing business directly with foreign suppliers, so approaching them is almost always a complete waste of time.

Here are a few of the reasons why:

❌ They don’t speak English 

❌ They need someone who can hold inventory in Japan and ship directly to individual stores as needed

❌ They need someone who can provide phone support in Japanese to their customers

❌ They have no interest in dealing with import-related issue

❌ They only deal with suppliers that already have an existing relationship (“kouza”) with them

❌ They expect suppliers to provide their goods on consignment or allow them to return unsold goods for a credit

❌ They expect suppliers to strictly adhere to their rules regarding orders, delivery, returns, and payment. For example, extended payment terms are common when it comes to the big retailers.

The bottom line is that you have two options if you want to do business with most retailers in Japan: you can set up a subsidiary in Japan with Japanese staff, or you can work with a distributor in Japan that has an existing relationship with the right ones.

On a related note, the same principle applies to distribution in Japan for B2B products.

End users in Japan have very high expectations when it comes to service and support and are rarely interested in purchasing supplies, parts, or equipment directly from a company that isn’t located in Japan so you need a local partner to reach these customers.

Are You Looking For Distributors, Importers or Agents In Japan?

We’ve connected over 400 companies with the right importers, agents & distributors in Japan.

Companies selling everything from highly specialized B2B, medical, industrial, technical, and scientific products… to all types of consumer goods.

So if your products are right for the Japanese market, there’s a very good chance we can help you connect with Japanese sales partners who speak English… know your industry… and have a strong track record of selling products like yours.

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