Even with one of the most outspokenly pessimistic presidents in the business world, Japan’s Daiso 100-yen shops are one of the most successful chains in the country. Walk into any branch, and you’ll see a huge mix of demographics among the customer base, including starving students, newlyweds setting up their own household, and thrifty families.
But while Daiso’s huge product selection gives it a wide appeal, it’s usually not the first stop for fashionable young ladies who’re looking for trendy accessories. So it’s been a surprise for the chain’s managers that since November, women have been snapping up Daiso-brand wristwatches like they’re designer timepieces, even though they’re dirt-cheap at just 108 yen (US $0.92) after tax.
The exact models that’re attracting attention are part of the Blue Planet product lineup. In perhaps the most blatant display of lazy product-naming since Gunma Prefecture decided to name its regional mascot Gunma–chan, there are actually nine different colors in the series.
Even Daiso itself says that “there’s no particular reason for the name,” and it doesn’t look like anyone within the organization was expecting them to be a huge seller. Still, the Blue Planet series has performed respectably enough that it’s been around for four years now, getting periodic redesigns along the way.
Since this November, though, sales have been skyrocketing. Even more surprising, the majority of the purchases are being made by young Japanese women, who generally aren’t interested in sporting a watch that costs less than a bottle of water at the convenience store. The credit for the Blue Planet’s sudden success doesn’t go to Daiso’s designers and the watches’ latest round of cosmetic updates, though. Instead, it’s thanks to these guys.
That’s the seven-member J Soul Brothers from Exile Tribe, now in its third generation of performers. Backed by the even larger boy band Exile, J Soul Brothers is one of the most popular male musical acts in Japan, and one of the few major groups not under the Johnny’s corporate umbrella.
▼ Instead, J Soul Brothers is under the Avex corporate umbrella.
But as you can see in the above shot, the band’s members aren’t all rocking Blue Planet watches while strutting around the stage. What they have done, though, is given their upcoming 2015 tour the same name as the 100-yen Daiso watches.
Right after the group announced its Blue Planet tour in November, fans rushed to their nearest Daiso to pick up a Blue Planet watch, with many taking to Twitter to say they’ll be wearing theirs to the concerts they’re attending. In the Tokyo area, several branches have sold out of the budget-priced timepieces, leaving some J Soul Brother fans with no choice but to ask their relatives living in less populated parts of Japan to pick one up at their local Daiso and mail it to them.
Since the Blue Planet watches first went on sale four years before the Blue Planet tour was announced, obviously Daiso didn’t choose the name knowing it would get a boost from the pop stars. Nor is the current iteration of the watch any sort of collaborative process between the store and group. For Daiso, which is as surprised as anyone by its product’s moment in the spotlight, it’s just a very happy coincidence.