JIN-347 -- "Warm Biz" Is Hot Business for Sportswear Manufacturers

T H E J @ P A N I N C N E W S L E T T E R
Commentary on the Week's Business, Technology and Cultural News

Issue No. 347
Saturday November 26, 2005 TOKYO

+++ VIEWPOINT: "Warm Biz" Is Hot Business for Sportswear Manufacturers

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+++ VIEWPOINT: "Warm Biz" Is Hot Business for Sportswear Manufacturers

"Cool biz," a campaign to dress down and raise thermostats in
the four warmest months, reportedly succeeded in reducing power
consumption. The campaign had a good pitchman in the popular prime
minister, tieless and in short sleeves for cabinet meetings and press
conferences. The sight of usually buttoned-up Japanese pols unbuttoned
made an impression. The size of the power savings is still open to debate,
although there are plenty of statistics pointing to a boon
in sales of alternatives to suit and tie.

Now the government is promoting "warm biz," a campaign to
lower office thermostats in winter. Sportswear manufacturers, seeking to
replicate the "cool biz" windfall for apparel makers, are churning out
items suitable for offices colder this year than last. The age of
high-tech threads has arrived. The garments feature sophisticated
materials with heat-generating, moisture-absorbent properties that protect
against the cold. With warnings of a cold winter and influenza epidemic,
the clothes are enjoying brisk sales at retail stores. Sportswear
manufacturers expect a 20% to 30% year-on-year increase in sales of
everyday clothing.

Osaka-based Mizuno has brought out a line of new products
using "Breath Thermo," a heat-generating material of its own invention.
Breath Thermo makes use of the principle whereby mammals' fur absorbs
rainwater and generates heat. Breath Thermo is said to have a thermal
effect of plus two degrees Celsius.

Mizuno's products are already on sale at major department stores including
Tobu and Mitsukoshi, supermarkets, and sporting goods stores. Strong
sellers are camisoles and other lingerie items. Remove the shoulder straps
from the camisole and it becomes a "hara-maki," or belly band. For the
warm biz market Mizuno created its first-ever white underwear for men.

Mizuno has ramped up production of cardigans, vests and lap robes (used in
offices by women who have poor circulation) with a goal of 6.7 billion yen
in sales of warm-biz-related items.

Goldwin, headquartered in Shibuya, Tokyo, has marketed a jacket with a
polyfabric providing a far-infrared-ray effect. The jacket comes in an
array of colors and sizes so that it can be worn not only for sports but
also while commuting.

Meanwhile, Phoenix, based in Shinagawa, Tokyo, has created a popular line
of men's and women's underwear using temperature-regulating materials
developed by NASA. Phoenix hopes to double sales over last year, to
100,000 items. The underwear is especially popular with company employees
who make a lot of sales calls.

Yonex, with headquarters in Bunkyo Ward, Tokyo, has come up
with "heat capsule" underwear, made from materials stitched
with tiny infrared-ray-absorbing capsules. The company has
set a sales target of 10,000 pieces for the fall-winter season.
In addition to middle and high school athletes, the shirts
and tights are also being snapped up by new demographic groups
such as housewives. This month Yonex will market socks made
from materials fitted with the capsules.

The prime minister with a lion's mane of hair popularized
cool biz by wearing open-collar short-sleeve shorts. Warm biz will test
his sartorial powers of persuasion. After all, he can't appear in
capsule-sequined skivvies.

--Burritt Sabin

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Written and edited by Burritt Sabin (editors2@japaninc.com)

(C) Copyright 2005 Japan Inc Communications KK. All Rights Reserved.