There is definitely a more traditional approach compared with other Asian market.
The retail scene in Japan has changed dramatically in the past 20 years. As licensing laws have relaxed, there are now more routes to market than ever. Approximately two-thirds of wine purchased in Japan is sold in the off-trade; the majority through bricks and mortar retailers. Popular channels include department stores, convenience stores, specialist wine shops, discount stores and supermarkets.*
The Japanese have strong sense of aesthetics and style and elegance
Premium brands should be aware that because the price per unit is decreasing in general, it’s difficult to sell wine at higher price points without a strong background history or story. Yet overall premium brands, with the proper investment of time and resources, can do very well here. Japan has a strong distribution network, particularly in the wholesale market, and our company is trying to develop this network while concurrently growing our retail sales. This is a country where wine is marketed in a sophisticated way.
Department stores hold a special place in retailing in Japan. Some trace their origins back to kimono shops. Others belong to railway companies which built the stores at terminuses. While the percentage of wine sales through department stores is relatively low, around 2%, these emporiums play an important role in promoting premium wines. Due to their high footfall and prestige, department stores provide excellent exposure to the wines they offer.
Source: MiBD. Store check program 2019 in 30 wine shops / 20,529 offers. Top listed wines 750ml.