Procter & Gamble is a major force in Japanese packaged goods, but faces much stronger competition from well-established local groups like Kao, Lion and Unicharm in sectors which it dominates elsewhere in the world. In Japan, for example, P&G ranks only #3 in laundry detergents with the Ariel and Bold brands, and Lenor fabric conditioner. It is #2 in haircare with Pantene, H&S (a reworked version of Head & Shouders), VS and local brand Hair Recipe; also #2 in babycare (with Pampers), and in feminine hygiene (with Whisper, the local version of Always); and even in men's razors - this is the only global market where Gillette is outsold by Edgewell's Schick. The group also markets dish detergent under the Joy brand, and Febreze air care products. In skincare and cosmetics, P&G inhabits the premium end of the market with top-of-the-range anti-ageing cream SK-II, partnered by more affordable Illume cosmetic and skincare products. Ironically, the Swiffer Duster, introduced in the US and other markets in 2003, was originally developed in Japan by key local rival Unicharm. P&G acquired the license to market that technology outside Japan under the Swiffer name. Procter & Gamble took its first steps into Japan in 1973, acquiring a 50% stake and management control of Nippon Sunhome, then the country's #3 soapmaker, struggling to compete with Kao and Lion. The new P&G Sunhome got off to a very strong start with brands like Cheer detergent and Pampers, but local rivals quickly adapted their own brands to the new competitor, putting the joint venture at risk of collapse by the early 1980s. P&G bought out its Sunhome partners in 1983 to take full control and launched what it called The Great Flying Leap strategy, introducing a barrage of new products designed specifically around Japanese preferences. That move more than tripled sales within just three years and re-established P&G as one of the local leaders. More recently, though, Japan has been overtaken by China as P&G's most valuable Asian territory. Czech-born Standa Vecera is president of P&G Japan.
Capsule checked 12th October 2021
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