Walking through a Daiso store – awash with bright colours and pulsating with Asian pop – it’s easy to start believing everything’s a downright bargain.
Everything’s $2.80 at Daiso
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Everything’s $2.80 at Daiso
Retail newcomer Daiso promises the same price across almost their entire range – but which are the real bargains?
The vast majority of the 18,000 products, from crockery to cosmetics, gardening tools to toys, are priced at an appealing $2.80, eliminating the need to calculate the best deals.
Unlike the dollar stores Australians have become used to seeing, Daiso bills itself as a “Japanese shopping wonderland” with a twist of kawaii (the Japanese term for “cute”).
It’s opened 29 stores in Australia in the past half decade, and plans to double the number by 2020.
“Our customers get more value for the dollar they’re spending; so instead of buying one item for $10, they can buy three for less, and while they may not be a brand name, they do the same job,” said Garry King who is overseeing Daiso’s expansion in Australia.
“We’re offering Japanese quality and design, and most of our products are made in Japan.”
With 97 per cent of the products priced at $2.80, it’s easy to get over-excited and launch into a shopping spree.
But a Fairfax Media price check found that depending on the item, shoppers are better off at discount rival Kmart.
For example, stainless steel tongs, kids’ swim goggles and cotton buds are priced at $2 each at Kmart.
There are however big wins at Daiso – similar umbrellas, magazine holders and removable wall hooks are easily twice the price elsewhere.
Of course, it’s difficult to fairly compare the two chains, with Kmart stocking products at a big range of price points, and Daiso offering peculiar, uniquely Japanese goods.
“We have these slippers with this microfibre mop thing so you can clean the floor as you walk,” said Mr King. “One of my favourites is this fly swatter that comes with a pair of tweezers.”
Consumer behaviour expert Paul Harrison from Deakin University said Daiso’s success was based on its novelty and quirkiness, both of which will fade as it becomes mainstream.
He described Daiso as a cross between Kmart and The Reject Shop without the “nastiness and cheapness” found at some variety stores.
“There’s a thing called consistency theory, or ‘IKEA effect’, which is: ‘Now that I’m here, I should probably buy something,” he said.
“If you want to avoid it, you have to stop and think, instead of responding to stimuli as we usually do, and the best way is to ask yourself: ‘Do I really need this?'”
Daiso is famous for pioneering the single-price 100-yen store, now ubiquitous in Japan. The same Daiso goods in Japan are being sold for 100 yen, or based on today’s exchange rate, $1.29.
Mr King said the higher cost of doing business in Australia, such as wages and rent, made it impossible to offer such as price.
He said Kmart’s prices could be cheaper for similar items because of its size in Australia, ability to buy in bulk, and different quality specifications.
While it’s unclear what impact Daiso has had on Australia’s retail heavyweights, one thing is certain – many copycat shops have sprung up in its wake.
One such place is MD Ranking, opposite George Street cinemas in the Sydney CBD. It offers a mix of everyday and quirky items from Japan, China and Korea, all for $2.80.
Shinji Kaidatfu, an area manager for a Daiso franchisee, said he believes the chain has helped push prices down at competitors, including Kmart.
“Some shopping centres have both stores, and they may have lost sales because we’re much cheaper,” he said.
“I think that’s why they’ve changed the price, to get more no brand items like wet tissues, and reducing prices to $2.”
Daiso has figured out how to drive repeat visits by turning shopping trips into treasure hunts, according to retail consultant Michael Baker.
It has 3500 stores in Japan and 600 more worldwide. It is the second biggest retailer in Japan, behind 7-Eleven.