Entering The Japanese Market Through Licensing and Reselling

Businesses entering the Japanese market will need to establish and maintain a strong relationship with local partners to succeed.

Most businesses entering Japan begin by finding a local partner to serve as an agent, distributor, and/or representative.  Agents and distributors are the most common partnerships used by foreign firms to gain their foothold in Japan.  

Many companies first setting up in Japan opt for partnership or distributorship arrangements with local partners during their Japan market entry. This has the benefit of giving their businesses quick access to the market while avoiding the difficulties of:

Licensing is an arrangement where a business transfers the rights to the selling of product or service to another business in Japan. This is a useful strategy if the licensor has a good market share in the market you want to enter. 

In a license agreement, the licensor will pay for limited rights to your product or service. This may allow them to manufacture, promote, and sell your product in Japan.

Licencing has the benefits of avoiding organising logistics for physical goods, marketing costs, manufacturing, and requires very little investment – so it can be lucrative guarantee of revenue. 

Japan also attempts to protect intellectual property rights, making it attractive to foreign businesses looking to expand into Japan. 

Licensing in Japan covers a large range of different product types, with toys as the biggest single category, followed by apparel, fashion accessories and software, video games and apps.

There are companies that provide expertise on brand license development and licensing, such as Sakura Linkage, and using these services can be very useful if it suits your market entry strategy.

Distributorship and Reselling in Japan

One of the common routes to Japan market entry is distributorship which allows foreign companies to deliver their products and services through an already established Japanese company. Your company will retain control over the production and development of your products and services, while letting another company handle the sales and logistics.

Distributorship requires a lower investment and can enable you to test the market for your product or service without too much expenditure. The reverse side is that you will lose a significant amount of the profit you could have made as well as the ability to develop a more permanent presence.

It is important to clearly outline the rules of the relationship with your distribution partner. For example, if, and for how long, will your distribution partner have exclusive rights to your product and your potential plans to enhance your local presence following initial market entry. Some key points to consider when appointing a distributor or reseller include:

Japan Market Entry Advisor

If youre operating without a partner, you could benefit from working with a Japan market entry advisor, such as Sakura Linkage, who can help with business development, market research, tax and incorporation aspects, operational support, translations and localization.