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Japanese items sold at Russian post offices catching consumers' eye

A staffer poses with Japanese goods at a post office in Vladivostok, Russia, on Aug. 28, 2018. (Kyodo)

VLADIVOSTOK, Russia (Kyodo) -- Japanese everyday household and food items on sale at more than 2,000 post offices in Russia since May have proved a hit, with popular products even experiencing supply shortages.

Japanese goods including noodles and shampoos are currently on sale in post offices in Moscow and Russia's Far East region, which is close to Japan, with products distributed via the Trans-Siberian Railway.

"I was surprised by the performance of Japanese shampoos and detergents," said a 48-year-old housewife who was purchasing Japanese facial sheet masks at a Vladivostok post office in late August.

According to a clerk at the outlet, food items such as instant noodles sell out quickly and the post office is often low on stock for these items. Russian post offices typically encompass retail stores that resemble Japanese convenience stores, making them popular shopping spots for locals.

Trading house Hokkaido Corp., based in Sapporo in Japan's northernmost main island, struck a deal with state-owned Russian Post to supply merchandise from Hokkaido and elsewhere via Pegas-HC LLC, its subsidiary based in Vladivostok.

The goods are shipped out of ports in Hokkaido and Tottori, a western Japan prefecture on the Sea of Japan coast, to Vladivostok on vessels and then loaded on to Trans-Siberian Railway trains.

By utilizing train services carrying Russian Post's mail and parcels that operate daily between Moscow and Vladivostok, Hokkaido Corp. can significantly cut transportation costs that have hitherto hindered expansion of sales channels in the vast country, according to the company.

With 42,000 post offices throughout Russia, Hokkaido Corp. sees room for growth and is targeting annual sales of 5 billion yen ($45 million). The company is also planning to take advantage of the logistics network of Russian Post, which has some 80 warehouses across the country.

The trading house will soon launch an online shopping service utilizing the postal logistics network for delivery. It is in the process of selecting merchandise items such as cosmetics that are attractive to internet-savvy younger customers.

The company is also considering launching catalog sales for older consumers who are not used to online shopping.

"While Japanese items have created high expectations in the Far East, the drawback is that they come with hefty price tags," said Hideki Ikeda, representative director of the subsidiary Pegas.

"We would like to spread the idea that they can purchase those goods at reasonable prices at post offices," he said.

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