Arab consumers associate Japan with high quality

Toyota's FJ Cruiser is one of the most popular off-road adventure vehicle among Arabs. (Supplied)
Updated 27 October 2019

Arab consumers associate Japan with high quality

  • Japan and its products are highly regarded in the Middle East, a YouGov study has found
  • After Sony, the second most recognizable brand among Arabs is the retail company Muji

LONDON: Japanese products are synonymous with quality among Arabs, a recent poll by Arab News and YouGov has found.
The poll asked residents across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region to rank Japan, China, South Korea and the US in terms of the quality of products they produce.
Among Arabs 71 percent listed Japan first, with the US, South Korea and China ranked second, third and fourth, respectively.
In many ways, the result is unsurprising. Japan and its products are highly regarded in the region, with many Arabs having a positive view of the country and its people. When asked by the same poll to list the attributes they most associate with Japanese people, a large majority of respondents selected “hardworking,” “organized” and “punctual.”
The poll found that the most recognizable Japanese brand among residents of the MENA region is Sony, with 60 percent of respondents correctly identifying it as Japanese. The figure was notably high among those aged over 40, of whom 78 percent recognized Sony as a Japanese company.
According to the poll’s findings, the second most recognizable Japanese brand among Arabs is the retail company Muji, which 32 percent of respondents identified as Japanese. Muji was especially recognized among women and younger people, with 40 percent of women selecting it as Japanese compared with only 28 percent of men.

If Muji’s high level of recognition as a Japanese brand is notable, especially in comparison to Nintendo, which only 19 percent of respondents recognized as Japanese, it is not exactly surprising. In recent years, “fast fashion” companies such as Muji and Uniqlo, which was not listed in the poll, have become one of Japan’s most successful and fastest-growing exports. In February 2015, there were three Muji stores in the UAE. Today, there are seven.
The strong reputation of such brands and their clear identification as Japanese among Arab consumers no doubt contributes to Japanese products’ reputation for quality in the Middle East.
Uniqlo is one of the only clothes retailers in YouGov’s 2019 Global Brand Health Index
Top 20, which tracks brand perception across a range of metrics.

ALSO READ: Poll reveals a crowded list of Arabs' favorite Japanese car brands

The poll also found that Arab consumers have positive misconceptions about the quality of Japanese products. A substantial number of respondents — 22 percent and 24 percent, respectively — mistakenly identified the South Korean brands Samsung and LG as Japanese.
Such mistakes are interesting because they show the extent to which Japanese products have become synonymous with quality products in the eyes of Middle Eastern consumers.
Samsung and LG are both seen as high-quality brands in the region — Samsung is placed third on YouGov’s UAE 2019 Brand Index, and both brands are in the 2019 Global Brand Health Index Top 20, with Samsung ranked fourth, higher than any Japanese brand.
Given that Arabs rank Japan first in terms of the quality of its products, and South Korea third, it is tempting to conclude that many Arabs perceive Samsung and LG to be Japanese rather than South Korean simply because the associations with quality are so much higher for the former country.

Ski resorts out in the cold as France eases lockdown

Updated 27 November 2020

Ski resorts out in the cold as France eases lockdown

  • Frustrated resort operators count the cost of holiday season restrictions

MEGEVE, France:  Megeve, in the foothills of Mont Blanc, was gearing up to welcome back skiers before Christmas after a COVID-19 lockdown was eased.

But France’s government — while allowing cinemas, museums and theaters to reopen from Dec. 15 — says its ski slopes must stay off limits until 2021, leaving those who make their living in the Alpine village frustrated and, in some cases, perplexed.

“When you’re outside, when you’re doing sport outdoors, that’s not the moment when you’re going to give COVID-19 to someone. COVID-19 is passed on in enclosed places,” said Pierre de Monvallier, director of ski school Oxygene, which operates in several resorts including Megeve.

Announcing a phased easing of the lockdown on Tuesday, French President Emmanuel Macron said it was “impossible to envisage” re-opening ski slopes for Christmas and New Year, and that he preferred instead to do so during January.

“It felt like the door had been slammed in our face,” said Catherine Jullien-Breches, the mayor of Megeve, whose green slopes are generally covered with snow by mid-December.

“Unfortunately it’s a real drama for the economies of the villages and the winter sports resorts.”

People who live within 20 km of France’s Alpine resorts will able to visit from this weekend, but with the lifts staying shut, the main draw is missing.

“It’s like going on holiday on the Cote d’Azur and being told the sea is off limits,” said David Le Scouarnec, co-owner of Megeve’s Cafe 2 la Poste.

The problem for the resorts — and the hotels, restaurants, and workers who depend on them for their livelihood — is that their season is short, and they will have little time after the New Year to claw back lost revenue.

Other European authorities are wrestling with the same problem. Italy’s resorts regions are seeking approval for restricted skiing, but Austria, whose biggest cluster of the first wave of the pandemic was at the ski resort of Ischgl — where thousands were infected — is skeptical.

Prevarication cuts little ice, however, with Mathieu Dechavanne, Chairman and CEO of Compagnie du Mont-Blanc, which operates cable cars at Megeve and other resorts.

He said who could not understand why the government allowed trains and metros to operate, but barred him from re-opening. “It’s like we’re being punished. We don’t deserve this. We’re ready.”