The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in global-scale changes to the flower industry and consumer habits, including those in Japan. Present report examined the situation in Japan according to production data and consumption patterns before and after the pandemic. The results indicate that, although the pandemic has not had a marked effect on Japan’s domestic cutflower market, its domestic flower industry as a whole has been affected considerably because of the increasing amount of cutflowers imported from other countries. Furthermore, the structure of consumer groups was analyzed. Although the population aged 60–79 years remains the main consumers of cutflowers, the population aged 29 years and younger has emerged as an increasingly influential consumer group. Before the pandemic, the yearly expenditure on potted flowers and related gardening supplies was lower than that of cutflowers. After the pandemic, the consumption of potted flowers has increased notably and exceeded that of cutflowers. Whether this business trend will persist in the post-pandemic world warrants further observation to facilitate adequate adaptation to market changes.
Keywords: COVID-19 Pandemic, Flower industry, Japan
FLOWER PRODUCTION IN JAPAN BEFORE AND AFTER THE PANDEMIC
According to OTA Floriculture Auction’s data, the expenditure on cutflowers in Japan amounted to YEN900 billion (US$6.11 billion) in 2020, of which 72% (YEN647 billion = US$4.39 billion) was from individual consumers and 20%, approximately YEN156.7 billion and YEN30.2 billion (US$1.06 billion and US$0.2 billion) spent on funeral arrangements and weddings from business use, respectively (OTA Floriculture Research Institute, 2022). A survey on consumer habits revealed that, before the pandemic, individual consumers primarily purchased flowers from convenience stores and flower shops. However, the outbreak of the pandemic has prompted consumers to purchase flowers online or from vendors operating in the form of horizontal alliances (e.g., nonconventional flower stalls established in the premises of Muji shops), which are designed to attract new consumer groups (i.e., the younger population). Regarding business use, the demand for funeral flowers has not increased since the pandemic began, but that for wedding flowers has declined. These patterns suggest that the influence of individual consumers has increased (OTA Floriculture Research Institute, 2022).
Japan’s cutflower market was already in the process of substantial change in terms of production and export before the pandemic began. Domestic flower production in Japan peaked in 1996 (with 5.8 billion cut flowers), exhibiting a downslope thereafter. Statistics indicate that, in 2019, Japan’s domestic flower production had decreased to 3.5 billion cutflowers, marking a 60% decrease compared with the peak year (1995). Conversely, the proportion of imported flowers was on the rise. In 1996, the number of imported flowers was approximately 700 million, which accounted for 13% of cutflowers on the market. By 2019, this amount had reached 1.3 billion, or 28% of cutflowers on the market. According to newest statistics, the value of imported flowers reached YEN36.4 billion in 2021, with Chrysanthemum accounting for 38% (YEN13.18 billion = US$0.09 billion) of the value, followed by Carnations (28%, YEN9.65 billion = US$0.07 billion ), Phalaenopsis (17%, YEN5.87 billion = US$0.04 billion), Roses (4%, YEN1.39 billion = US$0.01 billion), and Lilies (1%, YEN280 million = US$1.9 million). All the other species of flowers accounted for 12% (YEN4.26 billion = US$0.03 billion) in total. This is a clear indication of the waning influence of Japan’s flower industry in its domestic market in the face of strong competition from foreign imports (Trade Statistics of Japan, 2022).
FLOWER CONSUMPTION IN JAPAN BEFORE AND AFTER THE PANDEMIC
Flower consumption in Japan has undergone considerable structural changes both before and during the pandemic. According to Japan’s statistics on the expenditure on flowers in the past two decades, a family of two (or more) spent approximately YEN11,553 (US$78.39) on cutflowers in 2000, YEN10,500 (US$71.25) in 2010, YEN8,401 (US$57.01) in 2019, and YEN7,899 (US$53.60) in 2021 after the outbreak of COVID-19. By comparison, the expenditure on potted flowers and gardening supplies was lower than that on cutflowers before the pandemic, but has dramatically surpassed the expenditure on cutflowers since 2020. Specifically, the expenditure on potted flowers and gardening supplies amounted to YEN10,774 (US$73.11) in 2000, decreased to YEN7,700 (US$52.25) in 2019, surpassed the expenditure on cutflowers in 2020, approximately YEN9,000 (US$61.07) and YEN8,500 (US$57.68) for potted flowers and cutflowers, respectively, and rose to YEN8,807 (US$59.76), as opposed to the YEN7,899 (US$53.60) expenditure on cutflowers in 2021. The increased amount of free time at home owing to the outbreak of the pandemic, which could be spent on growing flowers and gardening, indirectly resulted in an increase in the expenditure on potted flowers and gardening supplies. By contrast, cutflowers have been hampered by their typical consumption pattern; concerns about COVID-19 transmission and the requirement to practice social distancing have indirectly affected consumers’ intention to purchase cutflowers (Statistics Bureau of Japan, 2022).
Japan has collected data on the age composition of their flower consumers, classifying them into 10-year age groups, with the youngest group aged 29 years and oldest group aged 70 years and older. As mentioned, data from 2019–2021 reveal a reduction in the expenditure on cutflowers (YEN8,401 (US$54.01) in 2019 and YEN7,899 (US$53.60) in 2021. In terms of consumer composition, two age groups, those aged 60–69 years and 70–79 years, constituted the main consumer groups, although their yearly expenditure on flowers has been gradually declining. The annual expenditure of those aged 60–69 years was YEN11,756 (US$79.83) in 2019 and YEN11,333 (US$76.90) in 2021. A similar trend can be observed for those aged 70–79 years, who spent YEN11,941 (US$81.03) in 2019 and YEN11,729 (US$79.59) in 2021. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, almost all of the age groups have exhibited a marked reduction in their yearly expenditure on cutflowers. However, before the pandemic, the yearly expenditure of those aged 29 years and younger increased almost 2-folds from YEN716 (US$4.86) (2019) to YEN1,852 (US$12.57) (2021). An increase was also observed for those aged 30–39 years, from YEN2,124 (US$14.41) in 2019 to YEN2,317 (US$15.72 ) in 2021. These data indicate the emergence of new consumer groups and consumption patterns, despite the reduction in total expenditure (Statistics Bureau of Japan, 2022).
The status of flower production and consumption in Japan is attributable to the following factors. The change in Japan’s industrial structure in response to a dwindling labor force and population may have resulted in an aging labor force in its domestic flower industry. Cost concerns and the convenience of the Internet may also favor the importing of high-quality, cost-effective cutflowers from other countries. Because older age groups constitute the main consumer group, the proportion of older adult citizens drives the prevalent consumption patterns in developed countries and thus cannot be neglected. The emergence of those aged 29 years and younger as a key consumer group is attributable to this group’s increased exposure to e-commerce marketing, growing access to flower product sellers beyond conventional flower shops, and increased exposure to promoted flower use during holidays. For a long time, Japan has promoted the use of flowers in daily life (e.g., school-age floral education), which may explain the emergence of younger consumer groups. Improving industrial and consumer habits and establishing enduring and favorable flower culture and consumption patterns are strategies that can facilitate the sustainable development of Japan’s flower industry.
Basic data and changes in trends. (October, 2022). OTA Floriculture Research Institute. Retrieved from https://otakaki.co.jp.
General trade statistics. (October, 2022). Trade Statistics of Japan. Retrieved from https://www.customs.go.jp/toukei/info/tsdl.htm
Household Income and Expenditure Survey Statistics List. (October, 2022). Statistics Bureau of Japan. Retrieved from https://www.stat.go.jp/data/kakei/.