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Wholesale sector in Japan - statistics & facts

Wholesale establishments are a major link in the distribution system in Japan. While the country’s small surface area enables fast freight distribution overland, the high concentration of manufacturing plants in proximity to major metropolises makes wholesalers an important intermediary in the distribution of goods throughout the country. In particular, in the supply of perishable goods such as vegetables or seafood are wholesalers a major procurement channel to guarantee the freshness and timely availability of produces.
Even though the integration of technology has been opening new marketing channels for manufacturers and distributors in recent decades, in particular through digital direct-to-consumer (D2C) marketing, the tightly woven business relations between manufacturers and wholesalers remain predominant in the domestic supply chain.

Wholesale markets

Wholesale markets are essential logistic hubs for the distribution of food products in Japan. The country counts over one thousand terminal markets, with local markets representing a distribution channel for a large number of wholesalers, including smaller sole proprietorships. In contrast, the more strictly regulated central wholesale markets approved by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) are predominantly located in the capital cities of the 47 Japanese prefectures, with a smaller number of registered large-scale distributors.
Closed off from the public, wholesalers sell fresh and frozen farm and fishery produces such as fruits, vegetables, meat, and seafood to intermediate wholesalers. However, following the deregulations of the Wholesale Market Law, which enabled large consumer-oriented businesses and retailers to procure goods directly from wholesalers at local and central markets, the number of intermediaries at central markets declined steadily in recent years.

Wholesalers in Japan

The trade sector is among the largest within the tertiary sector in Japan, with the majority of wholesale establishments engaged in the trade of durable goods. Wholesalers are differentiated into specialized businesses that are limited to a small range of goods and general trading companies, so-called sôgô shôsha, which handle a variety of product types.
The Japanese sector is characterized by a large number of small and medium-sized businesses trading within one product group, while a small number of large general trading companies are leading the market. The businesses represent a peculiarity of the Japanese trade sector with its large product portfolio ranging from food wholesale to engineering projects.

Interesting statistics

In the following 5 chapters, you will quickly find the 28 most important statistics relating to "Wholesale trade in Japan".


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