Thursday, March 17, 2011

Questions from Kayla & Japanese Quake Relief Donations

Kayla from Texas sent these questions over today, and I decided to answer it here. I don't have that much time today, but I'm going to bang out a few things so hopefully this will help collectively answer some of the questions folks have been sending in over the last few days.

"hello, this is Kayla again. Just placed an order for Working, and looking forward to it. I know you sometimes place customer emails and topics in your blog, and I wanted to pose a question to you.

"As a longtime RACS customer, I first wanted to say thank you for the continued superior service. Your customer service, along with your all your multiple offerings make me return to your store instead of others over and over again. The recent events have caused me not only to send multiple emails to friends still living in Japan, but also started a strong desire to purchase more anime and Japanese goods during the last week."

Anyone who really wants to offer immediate help to the people in Japan effected by the recent crisis should give a generous donation to the Red Cross or another disaster relief agency directly involved with the relief efforts. Aside form the Nuclear plant problems that are getting 24/7 coverage on the news, there are hundreds of thousands of displaced people in Japan that desperately need food, water, medical supplies and other basic needs items like blankets and fuel for heating and emergency transportation.

Aid agencies, in conjunction with the Japanese government are in the best position to help deliver these supplies quickly. I suggest that people take a step back from their weekly Anime purchases and instead make a generous donation to a relief agency like the Red Cross - we have.

 Here are more agencies directly involved with relief efforts that need our help:

Red Cross - Text REDCROSS or 90999 to make $10 donation.

Save the Children - Toll free: 800-728-3843 or just text JAPAN to 20222 to donate.

Salvation Army -  Toll free: 800-SAL-ARMY or text QUAKE or 80888 to donate $10

International Medical Corps - Text MED or 80888 to donate $10

Doctors Without Borders

Global Giving - Text JAPAN or 50555 to donate $10

World Vision - Toll Free: 888-56-CHILD or text 4JAPAN to 20222 to donate $10

"Items that I've been putting off for a better paycheck seem more scarce to me now. While I've heard from some sellers that business in unaffected areas is doing its best to try to carry on as business as usual, I can't help to believe that certain Japanese goods, figures, and foods that I used to order from online might become scarce as Japan tries to focus on rebuilding, or if the nuclear crisis escalates even further to a level I'm too afraid to write about. I've already read online that some scheduled anime blu-ray releases (in Japan) have been understandably delayed to dates TBD. I keep reading about the mass Exodus from Tokyo and international residents leaving the country for home, even if they don't live in the affected areas."

I don't think anyone knows how this crisis will affect industry and business in Japan yet. Most Anime good created and sold in Japan are not produced in Japan, but are shipped in from factories in China. At this time all available resources of the country, including shipping, ports, and air fireght should be dedicated to relief efforts and not manufactured collectables.

Also, no one should be the least bit concerned about anything like BD delays, or when more episodes of their current Anime shows will be available. These folks out on the Anime forums bitching about the blackout in new episodes and fan subs going up on torrents and talking about how 'they are victims too' should have their heads examined. What a ridiculous thing to care about at a time like this.

"I read that you've made contact with friends and suppliers in Japan since these terrible events. Have you heard more news in the past week that reflect these fears??"

We have and we have put together a couple of air shipments of items specifically requested by some of our friends in Tokyo which we hope will get through OK. There is great concern in Tokyo over the current situation at the Nuclear plant, but there is also great concern over how this disaster will effect the country long term. The Japanese have one of the most cohesive societies on earth, but they are still very worried. I don't think the conflicting info they are getting from the government and the various news sources is helping the situation any. I mean the emperor addressed the nation yesterday - that's a huge big deal and should reveal a great deal about the current level of concern.

"Have you found that sales at RACS have significantly increased or decreased since recent events??"

So far things here continue as normal. We've been very busy this week, but I don't think it has anything to do with what's going on in Japan. Our markets are almost completely disconnected from the Japanese market other than suppliers for certain specific classes of items. We've had the NHK news feed up on the monitor here at the office constantly since Friday, and I think we have all found it very hard to work this week while watching this tragedy unfold.

"While I doubt US releases will be affected much, at least for the time being, I wonder about figures you receive directly from Japan."

US releases should not be effected at all, in fact, almost every US studio has shamelessly put out their June schedules this week, seemingly oblivious of events in Japan and the suffering of the Japanese people. The show must go on I suppose. The US studios supply of material has a very long tail, and they probably already have enough material in the pipeline to publish for a year without any new material being produced in Japan, so as you can see the two markets are almost completely disconnected.

For Japanese import goods like figures, the answer is interesting. There are two kinds of US dealers for Japanese figures. Businesses like us source only materials licensed for export by the Japanese producers, and order them directly from the producers to be imported through an authorized US distributor (AAA is one of the big ones, and so is Yamato USA and a couple others). The other kind of businesses are the ones that use the wholesale depts. at Japanese hobby shops (like HLJ or HS) to source their figures. These folks are sorta 'grey' marketers who end run any export restrictions or license obligations by buying (at a small discount) directly from Japanese retailers instead of wholesalers or producers.

Our figure business likely won't be affected at all. Almost all Anime figures are produced in China, and when we order them from the producers they usually ship to the US directly from the factories in China (generally through Hong Kong) and never see mainland Japan. The folks that source from stores directly in Japan may have months of supply headaches ahead of them, but I think our supply chain is fine.

The other thing about our supply chain is that it has a very long tail. We order figures 6-8 months in advance of delivery. At the time of the disaster in Japan, our next shipment was already in CA clearing customs, the one behind that is currently on a container ship crossing the Pacific, and the one behind that is being collected at an export warehouse in Hong Kong for Max Factory or Good Smile. Most likely the folks that source directly from Japanese retailers encounter the bulk of the supply problems for new products like these.

One last business point. We fix our pricing several months in advance of delivery to protect ourselves from currency fluctuations. Folks that pay in Yen as they go and don't have price protections in place are going to get creamed while the Japanese repatriate Yen for relief efforts making the Dollar/Yen exchange rate deteriorate even further. You see the Yen get down to around 75 to the dollar and you'll see a lot of smaller US based Japanese goods businesses checking out of this market because the goods (whatever they are) will just become too expensive. I guarantee we won't be in a position to place any significant orders for import good like CD's or Japanese BD releases until the exchange rate improves, but fortunately this is only a tiny portion of put overall business.

"I also wonder about how much effort will be vested in making new anime down the line as the country tries to put things back together?? Any thoughts??"

That will depend entirely on the Japanese economy and how quickly they recover from this disaster. Anime demand in Japan will likely be suppressed for some time to come as a large portion of the country focuses on buying basic needs. The Japanese economy may even also face another recession, and many of the Anime producers in Japan are not in strong financial positions as it is. But Anime will be solely dependant on the Japanese market as to what happens. We'll have to wait and see, but no one should be focusing on this sorta thing at this point anyway. If it was CA, and LA was effected, the last thing on anyone’s mind should be how soon Hollywood will be making movies again.

I'll make some more comments when I have more time. In the mean time, please think about those donation links I posted.

1 comment:

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Honestly, the fact some people are are bitching they are "victims" is truly unconscienable. That's just the most selfish, pathetic attitude and speaks to the loss of our collective mind in this country. Wow.

I've been unable to write for a week as I've been so depressed for those people. Americans, and I love this country, could learn some lessons by the behavior of the Japanese during this time of crisis.

Have you seen looting in Japan?

My continued prayers for those folks over there and for the Americans and others who have tirelessly made efforts to help the true victims directly being affected by this catastrophe.