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Recent changes in the Japanese wholesale system and the importance of the Sogo Shosha

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Interest in Japanese distribution as a field of academic study has waned in recent years, but there is a continuing interest with the activities of Japan's general trading companies or Sogo Shosha. Previous research has concentrated largely on their function as international trade intermediaries but it has overlooked their role in the domestic economy. In recent years, the same Sogo Shosha have expanded their involvement in domestic distribution, in particular into food wholesaling, but more recently into retailing. The aim of this paper is to explore the extent of this involvement and to present an analysis of the reasons behind such a shift from both a managerial and a theoretical perspective. Further, we look at the current and future consequences of such large, internationally powerful companies taking a significant share in domestic distribution in Japan.

Keywords: Japan; Sogo Shosha; channel strategy; distribution structure; trading companies; wholesaling

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: College of Business, Rikkyo University, Tokyo, Japan 2: Institute for Retail Studies, University of Stirling, Scotland, UK

Publication date: September 1, 2007

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