Japans Appliance Makers Launch New Products For Their Exploding Ageing Consumer Market

It seems that new product development to capture a share of the lucrative older consumer market in Japan, has shifted to high gear.And by the looks of their innovations, it seems they’ve taken advice from our book!

According to this article from the Sunday Times, WKCLEANERPanasonic has just launched what it calls the “world’s lightest vacuum cleaner”. The product weighs just 2kg thanks to a new type of resin, can be comfortably carried in one hand. The vac is expected to sell for about 55,000 yen. This is well above the normal price point and clearly targeted at the well-heeled, older housewife.

Following two years of intensive consumer research Panasonic also plans to launch a refrigerator and an air-conditioner aimed at what it describes as “the discerning 50s and 60s”:

  • The dimensions of the fridge, (height and depth of its shelves and drawers), are set to match the physical characteristics of the typical housewife in her 50s, enabling her to reach what she wants without undue strain.
  • Besides warming the room rapidly, the air-conditioner is able to direct a stream of air heated to 35 deg C at one’s feet to keep them warm. Clever thinking!

Other recent product launches include a mini rice cooker from Hitachi that can cook only up to 600g of rice, less than half the amount that can be cooked in family-size rice cookers. It had found through surveys that 30 per cent of Japanese in their 60s preferred small rice cookers. Probably single serve. The new cooker costs about 55,000 yen, a price point out of reach for young couples and singles on a tight budget.

Higher-priced home appliances for seniors are in fact not only to satisfy the demands of this growing demographic, but also a strategy by manufacturers to offset the gradual shrinking of consumer demand as Japan ages.

Panasonic has made its intentions clear and has set the challenge for others to follow: “We are hoping to increase our sales by focusing on the senior market. By making products that this demographic market will support, we hope to rejuvenate the entire home appliance industry.”

Please note readers, he’s not talking about age-silo products – products uniquely for older people. These are everyday appliances redesigned to accommodate the needs of older people.

In other words, Age-Friendly.

Furthermore, it is clear that Japan’s electronics behemoths have realised that population ageing is now common around the world and Japan is leading in this phenomenon. So if products targeted at seniors are successful in Japan, they are likely to succeed overseas too.

Exactly what we are telling our clients.

According to one source quoted in this article, Japan’s senior market, which he defined as the over-60s, was worth about 100 trillion yen in 2012 and expected to rise by 1 trillion yen a year. By 2030, this group could account for half of all household expenditure in Japan.