Hanna Andersson Sticks to Print in Japan

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PORTLAND, OR -- Hanna Andersson is "investigating" the possibility of launching a Japanese Web site next year. But for now the children's apparel cataloger is focusing on print in its Japan marketing efforts.

The company drops seven books a year, five regular catalogs and two sales books, which are sent mostly to the company's own database built up over the six years Hanna Andersson has been active on the Japanese market.

Rene Corapi, the company's marketing manager, would not disclose how many books are included in each drop nor the overall figure. But she did say the company used outside lists.

"Prospecting in Japan is always a challenge," she said. "But we seem to have identified some things that work for us, and we continue to test to see if anything new could work for us."

The catalog is the major form of prospecting, and the company does not use direct mail fliers, although "we have a PR effort in Japan that gets us into women's and moms' magazines," Corapi said. "It's not really advertising."

Press releases are done inhouse with the help of "a woman we have in the office. We also work with an outside company who does our translating." She declined to name the outsourcer. Target audiences are people with credit cards.

The catalog is in Japanese but goods are priced in dollars. "Right now that seems to work, although we always run the risk of exchange-rate fluctuations," Corapi said. Of late, the dollar has been pretty stable in the 105 yen to 110 yen range.

Content of the book is the same as in the US, although "we use European sizing in centimeters and the Japanese are familiar with that," she said. Prestige, a global call center operation in Japan, handles incoming orders and complaints.

Hanna Andersson does not have a warehouse in Japan and airlifts goods from its facility in Louisville. Delivery takes 7 days to 10 days. Much depends on Japan Post.

Corapi rates the postal performance as mixed and said she used decoys to ensure products reach customers. "It doesn't always hit the target at the home window," Corapi said. "Sometimes they do well and sometimes they are slower."

She said it was "hard to comment" on what sells best. The firm has European and local competition but no US competition "to my knowledge. We have mixed results this year but overall we feel we still have an opportunity to be in the Japanese market. We're an established brand, and yes, Japan is an important part of our business," she said.

A couple of years ago Hanna Andersson was interested in expanding into Europe and trying to decide whether to enter Germany or the UK. It opted for the latter but then pulled back.

"We're always evaluating other countries," Corapi said, "but for now we're focusing on Japan and on our domestic business."

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