Two Dollars No More

At Daiso, there will no longer be one flat price, come May. Oh, GST not included, too

In Japan presently, Daiso is celebrating its 50th anniversary. We are not aware of any major observance (read: sale) over there, but they do have some anniversary-specific “limited” releases—largely products for the home—that are mostly priced at 100 yen (or about S$1.08, before the Japanese sales tax). Here, news have emerged that Daiso will very soon no longer offer their products at a single fixed price of S$2. Or absorb GST. On Instagram two days ago, the Japanese retailer announced that “with effect 1 May 2022, there will be a price change”. In the second of the two-image post, a colourful list of the new 15-tier (!) pricing was shared. The cheapest item (plus GST) will be $2.14 and the dearest, a staggering $25.47, much to the dismay—even shock—of fans and long-time customers. No one we spoke to about the impending price hike has paid more than double digits for a single item at Daiso, whether here or in Japan.

Some observers think that the announcement of the new pricing is too sudden, and just a week before the new prices will be tagged in the 27 Daiso stores across our island, gives consumers insufficient time to digest the sizable increase. Some retail managers we spoke to said that it is not possible for Daiso to continue to sell at that low price after 18 years here, in the wake of increases in business and material costs. About ten days ago, after news emerged that Daiso would be charging GST from 1 May and with reports showing images on notices of that announcement on Daiso stores, we were looking out for those notices, but did not find any. Now we know why: they took them down as it was not going to be a price hike due to the charging of GST alone. In the same IG post, Daiso wrote: “We thank you for your understanding and continued support”. The latter has not panned out yet, but understanding might be easier if Daiso had explained the reason behind the coming price hike, but they did not. We could only guess: on-going pandemic, long-drawn war, logistic woes, forex fluctuation, and, that dreaded phenomenon, historic inflation.

…understanding might be easier if Daiso had explained the reason behind the coming price hike, but they did not

According to a “Message” on a Japanese microsite created to mark Daiso’s momentous anniversary, the “One Price” is key to Daiso’s branding and merchandising. “The One Price makes it possible to buy more. The One Price allows you to give it a try. The One Price encourages casual purchases that lead to changes in everyday life. The One Price has infinite power to enrich our lives. For these 50 years, our thoughts have never changed.” Until now, it would seem. One price will soon be a distant memory, even when, in Japan, they have pledged that “Daiso will bring out a more exciting shopping experience, life, and society with the power of the One Price.”

Although Daiso in its homeland is proud to be 50 years old, it was not founded exactly five decades ago. In 1972, Hirotake Yano opened Yano Shoten, described as a “street vending shop dealing with 100 yen products”, according to their corporate literature. It was five years later that Daiso-sangyo (or the Daiso we recognise today) was born. According to Mr Yano, “Since our founding as the pioneer of 100 yen shops, we have continued to evolve and take on new challenges. One of those challenges was to abandon our original business model of ‘everything for 100 yen,’ and start developing and selling products for 200 yen, 1,000 yen, and so on.” That abandoning—in 2004—seems to contradict their confident anniversary message. A check with our friends in Japan confirmed that some products now cost more than ¥100. It would really be a matter of time before the business here follow suit. It is also possible that Daiso’s new tiered pricing here will bring it in line with their Threepy stores, and the soon-to-open Standard Products. To better reflect a changed business model? Bargain hunters, take note.

Photo: Chin Boh Kay

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