Anyway, We Must Win!

My comments in the last issue about the coming of a new age were well-timed, coming at the time of a once-in-a-century worldwide depression. But nevertheless I really did not expect that just a few weeks later a financial panic originating in the United States would erupt and rapidly spread around the world. A month later, amid the worldwide chaos, corporate bankruptcies are accelerating, employment instability is growing, consumption is declining, and there seems to be no way out of the situation.

Japan experienced a lost decade following the collapse of the bubble economy, so the impact seems to have been a little less severe here. Still, Japan is an exporting nation, so it also has been suddenly buffeted and dragged into the worldwide recession. In particular, the Toyota shock, involving the leading company in the manufacturing industry, has been decisive, and since then the Japanese economy as a whole has been slipping downhill. A truly unprecedented recession has arrived.

What makes matters even worse is that it comes at a time when the Christmas and year-end sales season is just kicking off. In particular, consumer behavior suddenly became dull in October, and this mentality has gathered momentum and spread around the world, including Japan. Depending on the state of business results in March, there is concern that the recession could get even worse.

In my capacity as an industrial journalist, over the past four decades I have witnessed recessions caused by the oil shocks, the shift to a floating rate system, the Plaza accord, the collapse of the bubble economy, and so on. But in almost all of these cases we managed to survive because although the domestic situation was severe, the Japanese economy was able to profit from exports. In other words, these downturns were driven by endogenous factors.

The present worldwide recession, however, is completely out of the realm of Japan痴 experience in the sense that exports themselves are suffering the impact of the yen痴 appreciation and the drop in consumption around the world, and especially in the United States. For the development of our industry, we must be determined to pool our wisdom and weather the storm.

At times like this, the superior or inferior quality of companies becomes striking. Companies blame the times and become backward-looking or neglect to make a response and fall by the wayside.

Now is the time for an 殿nimal approach to business. An animal approach is positive. When an animal gets hungry, come wind or rain, it goes out looking for food. By contrast, a 菟lant approach, although it might not go so far as being negative, is passive. It means just having a store and waiting for the customers to come. In other words, at a time like this, the important thing is to reach out to customers. Make the distance between store and customer as short as possible, and, like an animal, go out and find the customers. Of course, there are differences in terms of store size and location, but the important thing first of all is to align the vector to the animal approach. That is the lesson from past experiences for overcoming the present hard times.

Anyway, we must win. It is not the time for us to be licking one another痴 wounds. We definitely must win. We must dive into the minds of the customers. Nothing will be gained unless we have a firm understanding of them.

I expect the recession to continue next year as well. We cannot feel safe even if we thoroughly adopt the animal approach, but we must take action. We are determined to contribute positively to the development of the industry in order to create markets.