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East Asian Discount Retailers Expand Across US Amid Demand for Affordable Novelty

Japanese Discount Retailers Expand Across United States

Amid ongoing budget pressures, United States shoppers are seeking affordable ways to treat themselves, fueling demand for the novel but low-cost products that Japanese (and Japanese-style) discount stores have to offer.

Japanese value chain Daiso opened its latest U.S. location in Austin, Texas, Saturday (April 6), part of its ongoing push to expand its presence in the country, with the company now having 123 locations across seven states with more to come. This expansion strategy is strongly influenced by digital engagement with the brand.

“Austin-based Daiso customers have shown us through our online business and social media their desire for us to have more stores within the state, influencing our immediate growth strategy in this region,” John Clarke, chief development officer for Daiso USA, said in a statement.

Affordability-focused Chinese lifestyle retailer Miniso, which is known for modeling itself after Japanese aesthetics and allegedly copying Japanese brands, is also expanding across the country. Last month, the company announced plans to expand to 13 new U.S. malls in partnership with CBL Properties. The move is specifically meant to target Generation Z consumers, who have shown an enthusiasm for brick-and-mortar malls that might be surprising given their high levels of digital engagement.

“Miniso is an innovative retailer catering to a generation of customers who over the last few years have shown a preference for shopping at malls,” CBL Properties CEO Stephen Lebovitz said in a statement.

Budgetary pressures are contributing to increased demand for lower-priced stores. The February/March PYMNTS Intelligence report “New Reality Check: The Paycheck-to-Paycheck Report: Why One-Third of High Earners Live Paycheck to Paycheck” drew from a survey of more than 4,200 U.S. consumers. It found that half of shoppers switched to cheaper merchants in the face of retail product price increases.

According to the 2023 PYMNTS Intelligence study “Consumer Inflation Sentiment: The False Appeal of Deal-Chasing Consumers,” which was based on a survey of more than 2,100 U.S. consumers, 46% of retail shoppers are deal chasers, willing to go wherever they will get the best price.

East Asian discount retailers, for their part, offer products that are unique or difficult to find elsewhere in the U.S. From Japanese snacks to kitchen gadgets to beauty products to quirky stationery, these stores provide an array of items that cater to various interests and preferences. For instance, consumers can find sleek, minimally designed lunch boxes, unconventional flavors of Oreos or pens with cute character designs.

Plus, these stores’ aesthetic, organization and product selection reflect Japanese design and culture, offering a unique shopping experience for those interested in Japanese goods and hungry for novelty.

Yet consumers seek opportunities to treat themselves, where they can. “The Nonessential Spending Deep Dive Edition” of the New Reality Check series, which drew on responses from more than 3,400 U.S. consumers, found that 70% of retail shoppers buy “nice-to-have” items at least sometimes.

Many retailers are noting consumer demand for fun and entertainment. In an interview with PYMNTS in November, Jill Renslow, chief business development and marketing officer at Mall of America, explained that shoppers are seeking out more fun, entertaining experiences. Similarly, discount retailer Five Below has seen the combination of “value and fun” drive sales, per CEO Joel Anderson’s comments on an earnings call also in November.

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