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.


Saudi Arabia pumps 12m barrels of oil for the first time

Updated 02 April 2020

Saudi Arabia pumps 12m barrels of oil for the first time

  • Daily record smashed amid market turmoil
  • Previous record output was about 11 million barrels

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia pumped more than 12 million barrels of oil on Wednesday for the first time in its history.

The Kingdom has vowed to ramp up production as an oil “price war” shakes the global energy industry following the end of a supply agreement with other producers.

Officials at Saudi Aramco, the world’s biggest oil company, and the Saudi Ministry of Energy, Industry and Mineral Resources told Arab News that crude output on the first day of April — when the OPEC+ agreement to limit supply lapsed — was more than 12 million barrels. Some reports put it at 12.3 million.

The Kingdom’s previous record output was about 11 million barrels, achieved only briefly.


SPOTLIGHT: From Middle East to USA, coronavirus impact transforms oil industry’s dynamics


Aramco had pledged to increase its maximum sustainable capacity (MSC) — the level at which it can safely maintain long-term output — to 12.3 million in the coming months; that it has already hit this level is regarded as a measure of its operational efficiency and the Kingdom’s determination to win the battle for market share.

The company released a short video showing laden oil tankers sailing away from Saudi ports. It said it had loaded 18.8 million barrels onto 15 tankers, which would have taken about three days.

Aramco’s strategy of large output increases and significant discounts to customers — labeled a “shock and awe” play by energy experts — has transformed the oil industry. The price of crude oil plunged as demand for energy was hit by the coronavirus pandemic. Some producers, especially in the US where extraction costs are high, are facing financial disaster.

“If Saudi Arabia sustains this, it would be an unprecedented demonstration of their MSC,” said Robin Mills, chief executive of the Qamar energy consultancy. “Assuming that it is production, and not just drawing down on storage, it’s an impressively quick ramp-up.”

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It was also notable that production was unaffected by any lingering issues from terrorist attacks last September on Aramco facilities at Abqaiq and Khurais, Mills said.

Despite the flood of oil onto global markets, the Brent crude global benchmark price rose by about 10 per cent toward $25 per barrel after US President Donald Trump said he thought the price was too low, and offered talks with Saudi Arabia and Russia about the global oil glut.

Shares in Saudi Aramco rose for a third consecutive day, up 1.5 per cent to SR30.6.