Discount strategies: Every dog, and man, has his day

August 31st, 2011 by Philip Brasor & Masako Tsubuku

The prevailing wisdom in Japan is that women are the arbiters of consumer culture. Traditionally, men were thought — or thought themselves — to be above the petty considerations of how to spend money. But the lingering recession and its negative effects on the employment situation have changed everything. Young men are no longer automatically expected to pay for dates, if, in fact, they ever actually go on dates. Even salaried male employees are openly anxious about their pocket money, counting every last yen and budgeting their output. It’s not just their wives’ or girlfriends’ jobs any more.

Guys just wanna have fun: Shidax's Men's Day ad

The popular promotional scheme known as Ladies Days are implemented by retailers and service providers to lure women to their businesses. On certain days of the week, month or year, women receive discounts from hotels, movie theaters, restaurants, etc., as a means of getting more of them interested in what they offer. Such promotions were never offered to men, and not just because of male pride. Men, after all, are believed to run the world. As the advantaged gender, why should they get a break?

Well, a number of businesses think it’s about time men did get a break. Mainichi Shimbun recently reported on the trend for Men’s Days, mainly centered on eating establishments. The article talks about a Portuguese restaurant in Ginza where every Monday male patrons’ first glass of beer is free and only men get to order the pudding for dessert. The manager of the establishment, a man, told the paper, “There are lots of Ladies Days, and I thought that was strange.”

His response is sort of strange, too. We have more faith in the comment from a female manager of another restaurant with a Men’s Day special in Mito, Ibaraki Prefecture. Her restaurant on designated days offers extra helping of pasta and rice to men for free, not to mention free side orders of soup. Why? Ninety percent of their patrons are women, and men normally eat more than women do, which means they potentially spend more. “We want repeat business.”

The article also mentions a Chinese restaurant in Yokohama whose Men’s Day offers an all-you-can-drink deal for parties of only men; as well as a restaurant in Takadanobaba in Tokyo with special discount courses and plans for all-male get-togethers. But the trend is growing beyond watering holes. Oasis, a chain of Thai massage services, offers 10 percent off for all men on Fridays. However, it should be noted that Thursdays are Ladies Days at Oasis, and the girls get a 20 percent discount. In the end, women are still a better bet when it comes to promoting certain kinds of services.

But the biggest gamble for the male market — indeed, the male group market — is being tested by karaoke room provider Shidax, which has designated every Thursday Men’s Day. The deal is only available to the 200,000 members of Shidax’s mobile phone network, but it’s quite a deal: No room charge for two full hours. The idea, of course, is that the men, hanging out with one another singing songs, will spend more on booze and munchies. Though Shidax also offers a Ladies Day discount, women tend to be more conservative about drinking and eating. When guys get with other guys and there aren’t any significant others around, it can get pretty gruesome.

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