The sweet smell of success
10 Feb 2012
Kenkoku Kinen No Hi (National Foundation Day) is celebrated on the 11th of February each year in Japan. Early Japanese history books suggest that on this day in the year 660 BC, the first Japanese emperor, Emperor Jimmu, was crowned.
This tradition is just a small part of Japan's rich history, a history that has seen Japan grow to become a thriving business hub. In fact Japan is the third largest global economy and Australia's second largest trading partner, both in terms of two-way trade and export. In 2010/11 Australian exports to Japan amounted to A$46.8 billion.
For the founders of Perfect Potion, Salvatore Battaglia and Carolyn Stubbin, Japan has been an important market in their business strategy. Since opening their first store in Brisbane in 1991, Salvatore and Carolyn have worked to make shopping at Perfect Potion a 'total customer experience'. This concept is now led by their 70 staff who work across eight Australian stores and 10 stores in Japan.
'We had a distributor in Japan for more than 10 years but they never understood our brand.' Salvatore says. 'Our vision is to provide customers with an experience that is the most sought after in the world. Having our brand with a distributor meant that it was just another brand among thousands of other skincare products. But we've never seen ourselves like that because there is a whole experience around Perfect Potion.'
Salvatore says the secret to the success in Japan has been in setting up a separate company with a business partner, a Japanese national. 'The fact that she speaks English well and is very business savvy - plus has a strong passion for Perfect Potion - has made it very easy.'
Solid protection of the company's intellectual property (IP), like its brand, before exporting was also essential. 'It is so important before you enter a country for export that your brand name is going to be protected. We have our trade mark protected in Australia, Japan, Singapore and the UK.'
To ensure the brand is well and truly covered, Perfect Potion employed the services of an experienced local patent and trade mark attorney firm in Brisbane. 'We have really good trade mark attorneys. Without their help, there was no way we could register the IP worldwide. They've been able to achieve everything from their offices here in Australia', Salvatore says.
The attorneys liaise with relevant IP specialists in Japan, lodging all applications and coordinating IP searches for all markets. 'And where they have needed to contact somebody overseas, they have done so on our behalf.'
So far the experience has been very positive. 'In all honesty, I'd say it's easier to set up shops in Japan than it is to set up in Australia!' Salvatore says. 'I find people very reliable, in terms of organising others to do things. If someone says something will be done by a certain date, it is done by that date.'
Although there haven't been any infringements of their trade marks to date, regular communication with their Japanese partners means they can be alerted to any potential problems quickly.
For other companies looking to crack the Japanese market, or indeed any international market, Salvatore has some advice: 'If you want to be successful, make sure you go into a business relationship with someone who really understands what you're trying to achieve. It is difficult to set up a business in Japan without having a strong input from Japanese nationals - either having a business partner who is Japanese or a person who really understands the Japanese culture.'
If you are looking at exporting to Japan we have country specific information on IP issues exporters may face in Japan, and other markets. For information about exporting to a range of countries visit our doing business overseas page.
Last Updated: 29/11/2012