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It's a typical Sunday afternoon at Tokyo's Girl Is Girl store and customers crowd into this mecca of Japanese teen fashion. 11-year-old Chihiro holds up a lemon yellow shirt with hearts and stars and says longingly, 'This is so cute. The next time I'll come with Mum.' Her two friends nod in agreement.

Chihiro and her friends are no ordinary shoppers; they are about the only dynamic consumers left in the sluggish Japanese economy. Marketers call them 'bubble juniors': the 9- to 14-year-old daughters of Japanese women who spent lavishly as carefree twenty some things during Japan's 'bubble' years of the 1980s. They are the potential trendsetters, like college girls in the 1980s and high-school girls in the 1990s.

Since Japan entered its recession, the retail clothing industry has been in a tailspin. Clothes sales at Japan's department stores have shrunk by almost 10% in the last five years. All the traditional market sectors- men's, women's and children's - have suffered. Only recently did Japanese clothing lines awaken to the purchasing power of the bubble juniors.

The girls are a unique and profitable niche. They don't want to wear what's in the kids' section. Rather, they mix mature styles with bright colours and childlike frills. Last March an entire floor of one of Tokyo's biggest fashion shopping centres was renovated to serve the junior girls. Sales have since jumped 30%.

The market expansion is all the more impressive given that the target age group is shrinking. While it may not be an endless supply of consumer energy, this bright spot in the national economy is enough to excite everybody from clothing designers to magazine publishers.

Total financial dependence on their parents would seem to be a serious strike against these junior shoppers. But it's not a problem, say analysts. A girl often has a fashionable mum and two sets of doting grandparents. Bubble mums, unlike those of earlier generations, are comfortable spending a fortune on outfits that might be worn for only one season.

Industry insiders are betting tl1at the bubble junior craze can be exported elsewhere in Asia. So far the signs look good. Nicola, a monthly magazine that is the bible for bubble juniors, printed 10,000 copies of an issue in Shanghai, China, and immediately sold out. The affluent middle class in China's coastal cities offers more young customers. Their increasing interest in fashion and the culture in which they take good care of their children is promising.

Adapted from Newsweek

1. 'Bubble juniors' are all Japanese children from a certain age group. T/ F

2. Young girls have been known to set fashion trends in Japan before. T/ F

3. Clothes sales in Japan have increased by 10% in recent years. T/F

4. Japanese 9- to 14-year-old girls choose clothes that give them a mature look. T/ F

5. Analysts estimate the number of 'bubble juniors' in Japan will shrink. T/ F

6. Young girls' mothers today are less willing than their grandparents to spend on their children 's clothes. T/ F

7. Nicola magazine sells 10,000 copies each month. T/ F

8. Market trends emerging in China are similar to those in Japan. T/F


Oxford Exam Excellence стр. 34

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