The first couple weeks of January in Japanese business life are dominated by making New Year’s greetings to clients and attending receptions. While it can be very time consuming when you are trying to write your proposals and prepare programs for next fiscal year, it is also a great time to catch-up with clients and help keep BC Wood and our members in their minds as these companies make their own plans for the new year.
For this reason I recently made a trip to Nagoya to attend the Architect’s Association’s New Year’s reception and to meet with other companies. The most stunning thing on this trip for me was to learn how fast the times have changed in this region. As Toyota surged to become the world’s #1 car maker, so did Aichi Prefecture. However, now that Toyota is feeling the pinch of the downturn in European and North American markets, the once mighty area surrounding Nagoya is for the first time in a long-time experiencing large scale layoffs and economic uncertainty.
These problems have already spilled over into our industry. Many people told me about large spec house developments being put on hold in this area. The situation was punctuated by the fact that Toshin Jutaku, a large 2×4 apartment builder in the region, went bankrupt on the day of the reception.
However, I also received some very positive news from talking to clients. One client who came to the GBM in 2008 told me that they are now getting ready to place their first order with a BC Wood member. This client had been importing building products from the US for many years, but after taking part in the GBM and then following-up by meeting members at the Japan Home Show they are now Canada fans. Yeah team!
I was also pleased to hear that a major lumber importer in the area is planning to look at Canada again for remanufactured lumber products after moving on to Europe and Asia a number of years ago. The section chief of the importing division told me that the weak Canadian dollar has made BC products competitive again. He also expects that with the slow US market many producers will be more willing to look at metric and special sizes for the Japanese market. While he sees weakness in the Japanese housing market, he is eager to find new suppliers and is excited about going to the GBM this year.
As with anything, you have to take the good with the bad. We are definitely in for a tougher year in 2009, but there are still many success stories to be created by matching up BC Wood members with new Japanese clients. Maybe our members will buy a few more Toyota’s this year and help out Nagoya as well!
By Jim Ivanoff
BC Wood Japan Office