Japan sports retailers cheer as rugby shirts fly off shelves

Japan matches at the Rugby World Cup are played in front of a sea of red-and-white as fans snap up team jerseys. (Reuters)
Updated 09 October 2019

Japan sports retailers cheer as rugby shirts fly off shelves

  • Host nation success a bonanza for clothing brand Canterbury as sales leap

TOKYO: It is early morning outside the sportswear store near the Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Stadium and customers are already queuing to get their hands on Japan’s hottest property: A Brave Blossoms replica shirt.

The red-and-white jerseys are flying off the shelves as the Japan team continues to defy expectations at the Rugby World Cup, winning three from three and on course for a historic quarter-final.

Japan games are played in front of a sea of red-and-white shirts and sales have exceeded even the most optimistic forecasts — with 90 percent of the stock for the whole tournament already gone.

Shirts are being sold as soon as they can be replaced, said Danny Robinson, manager of the Rugby World Cup megastore in Tokyo.

“Everybody loves the Japanese jerseys. It’s much, much more than we anticipated. Every day people are waiting at the door and coming in to grab the jerseys. So it’s very difficult to keep them on the shelves. We keep bringing them in every day,” he told AFP.

However, it is not just the Japanese who are snapping up the shirts. Robinson estimates that around half of the people buying Brave Blossom jerseys are foreigners.

Jesai Knight, an Australian rugby fan, has been searching high and low for his souvenir.

“I came today to get one of those Japanese jerseys. We came here yesterday at about 9.30 in the morning, and they were sold out already at that point. And they told us to come back in the late evening today to get one,” said Knight.

The 38-year-old has also encountered an issue many foreigners living in Japan find infuriating — finding the right size for the Western build.

“I am an extra large... it was a little difficult,” he told AFP, gleefully snapping up the one XL jersey available.

The availability of Brave Blossom shirts has not been helped by a supply problem with a warehouse in Chiba, to the east of Tokyo, that was affected by Typhoon Faxai a fortnight before the tournament began.

“The warehouse actually lost electricity,” said Robinson. “So people were picking by hand with flashlights to get the products here.”

The hiccup was resolved “a long time ago” and deliveries are now coming in two or three times per week, he added.

The World Cup has been a bonanza for Canterbury, the company that produces the Brave Blossom shirts along with other rugby gear.

They had forecast sales of 200,000 throughout the tournament — which ends on Nov. 2 — and “90 percent has already been sold,” said Yoshi Katsuta, head of Rugby World Cup operations for Canterbury Japan. “We are truly sorry” that some fans cannot get their hands on a Brave Blossoms jersey, but such demand was “really difficult to predict. We expected foreigners to also buy Japan shirts but not on this scale,” he admitted.

Another feature of this World Cup — the first held in Asia and in a non-traditional rugby hotbed — is how the home fans have “adopted” teams and dutifully bought their replica jerseys.

“I’m not sure we’ve ever seen a World Cup where the home fans have supported all of the teams this well,” tournament organizer Alan Gilpin said in a recent interview.

“And the merchandising sales for replica jerseys for every team being bought by Japanese fans is brilliant.”

The famous black shirts of defending champions New Zealand have proved especially popular, not just because they are one of the tournament favorites but also because “the Japanese love the haka,” said Robinson.


Make or break days for global oil ahead of OPEC crunch meeting

Updated 08 April 2020

Make or break days for global oil ahead of OPEC crunch meeting

  • OPEC, led by Saudi Arabia, were on Thursday scheduled to take part in virtual discussions with non-OPEC members, led by Russia, about a possible deal to revive the OPEC+ alliance
  • On Friday, energy ministers from the G20 nations, under the presidency of Saudi Arabia, will convene in another digital forum that will bring in the third part of the global oil equation – the US

DUBAI: The global energy world, in the midst of crisis as demand slumps to unprecedented levels due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, faces two days that could make – or break – the oil industry for months to come.
Leading producers from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), led by Saudi Arabia, were on Thursday scheduled to take part in virtual discussions with non-OPEC members, led by Russia, about a possible deal to revive the OPEC+ alliance that fell apart in Vienna at the beginning of last month.
Then, on Friday, energy ministers from the G20 nations, under the presidency of Saudi Arabia, will convene in another digital forum that will bring in the third important part of the global oil equation – the US, currently the biggest oil producer in the world.
If no deal is reached from the two days of oil summits, the immediate prospect looms of a further fall in crude prices and, with global storage facilities already filling rapidly, the possibility of major exporters “shutting in” oil fields, jeopardizing future production.
Energy experts say the purpose of the meetings is two-fold: To reach agreement on how to limit the vast quantities of oil that are still being produced even as demand collapses; and to present some kind of united front in geopolitical terms in the face of the biggest economic recession since the 1930s.
The most visible immediate sign of any success from the meetings will be an increase in the price of crude oil on global markets. Brent crude, the Middle East benchmark, has lost nearly half its value in the past month.
The first aim – to try to balance oil supply and demand – is the more difficult. Global demand has fallen by at least 20 per cent from the usual daily consumption of around 100 million barrels, oil economists have calculated.
But, following the collapse of the OPEC+ deal that was putting a lid on supply, all producers have been pumping more crude. Saudi Arabia is producing more than 12 million barrels per day (bpd), a bigger volume than at any time in its history. All OPEC members, as well as Russia, have said they will increase output.
In this stand-off, US President Donald Trump intervened last week to say that he had spoken to Saudi and Russian leaders and that he “expected” a cut of 10 million, possibly even 15 million, bpd.
That looks like wishful thinking. For one thing, it would not rebalance markets. Anas Al-Hajji, managing partner of US-based Energy Outlook Advisers, said: “The amount of the cut is relatively small given the major drop in demand.”
There are also some difficult relationships to smooth over in the OPEC+ alliance. Saudi Arabia and Russia exchanged angry statements last weekend, each accusing the other of starting the oil price war. Iran, with big reserves but hampered by US sanctions from exporting in large quantities, said that it might not take part in the conference.
The choreography of the two meetings also presents hurdles. The US will not be present at the OPEC+ meeting, but American Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette said he would take part in the G20 event.
Because it is a free-market industry, America cannot order its oil producers to reduce output, but most analysts are agreed any attempt to rebalance global supply would be impossible without a US contribution.
By going first, Saudi Arabia and Russia are “playing blind” without knowing what the Americans are thinking. Neither would want to agree big price-restoring cuts only for US producers – under big financial pressure at current levels – to swoop back into the market.
This week there have been some signs that the Americans are considering their own versions of cutbacks. The biggest US company, Exxon Mobil, said it would reduce capital expenditure on future projects by 30 percent; the US Energy Information Administration said oil production would fall by nearly 1 million bpd this year, in response to falling demand and financial pressures.
But even if the Saudis and Russians cut substantially alongside other big OPEC producers such as the UAE, and the Americans enter a long-term pattern of falling demand, it is still hard to see how cuts could reach the 10 million barrels Trump “expects,” let alone 15 million.
J. P. Morgan, the big US investment bank, said that it expects OPEC+ to come up with combined cuts of about 4.3 million barrels, most of that coming from Saudi Arabia, Russia and the UAE. “If it’s 4.3 million it only puts off the day when global storage gets filled completely,” said Robin Mills, CEO of Qamar Energy consultancy.
Storage facilities are nearly at the brim. Malek Azizeh, director of the premium facilities at the Fujairah Oil Terminal in the UAE, joked that he was going to hang a sign on the terminal gates: “Thanks, but no tanks.”