Posts Tagged ‘beer’

Somebody has to pay for cheap beer

Friday, August 3rd, 2012

Aeon’s beer case: Does this look cheap to you?

Late last month, the Fair Trade Commission issued a warning to three liquor wholesalers whom the commission suspected of violating the Antimonopoly Law by selling beer to the supermarket chain Aeon at below cost. It was the first time the FTC ever made such a warning about dumping for alcoholic beverages, and while the media is reporting that the commission apparently does not have enough evidence to prove a clear violation of the law, the FTC has made an exception and issued the warning anyway, which would seem to indicate that it strongly believes some hanky-panky is going on.

The main reason for the warning in this instance is to protect smaller liquor retailers located near Aeon outlets who can’t hope to compete with such low prices. In fact, a closer reading of the coverage would seem to indicate that it is really Aeon who is bending the rules to its advantage rather than the three wholesalers — Mitsubishi Shokuhin, Nihon Shurui Hanbai, Itochu Shokuhin — but in any case the warning was mainly directed at them. Nevertheless, Aeon decided that the adverse publicity attached to the warning was serious enough for it to hold a press conference on July 23. A representative stated that the company made no such demand to the three suppliers to sell them beer at below cost.

Apparently, the FTC was suspicious of dumping as long ago as 2005, when it heard that 10 brands of beer and happoshu (malt liquor) were being sold to Aeon at prices that were below the price they paid to the manufacturers, even with ancillary costs like transportation factored in. Aeon would then add its own margin and, supposedly, still undersell competitors. For instance, the wholesaler would buy a case of beer from a manufacturer for ¥3,800 and then sell it to Aeon for ¥3,700. The wholesaler would supposedly make up for the beer loss by carrying out a business practice known in Japan as arari-mikusu, which means jacking up the prices of other alcoholic beverages they sold to Aeon. Consumers would pay more for these products than they normally would. Such a practice violates National Tax Agency guidelines for fair trade.

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A streetcar named beer

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

Tis the season to forget about the year with a mess of alcohol, so Kirin Holdings conducted a survey of salarymen to find out just how much they were willing to pay for a single bonenkai (end-of-year party). The limit, they found, was ¥4,690, which is less than what Kirin found last year, which was less than the year before, etc. Obviously, salarymen’s wallets are getting tighter, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to forsake their traditional December puke-fests.

The suds express

The suds express

Thus it was no surprise to learn that the Arakawa-sen’s “Toshi-wasure Beer-go” (Forget-the-year Beer Special) was booked up solid right away. The Arakawa-sen is the last of Tokyo’s streetcar lines, which runs from Minowa-bashi in Arakawa Ward to Waseda in Shinjuku Ward.

From Dec. 8 to 12 they are running a special “beer car” once a day at 7 p.m. (twice on the 12th). For ¥3,000 you get all the canned beer you can drink plus snacks. Reservations are limited to 20 persons, which is why there are no more spaces left, and the ride itself only goes as far as Otsuka Station, but it lasts two hours, presumably because it sits in a few stations to let the regular cars pass it by. Also, it should be noted that the cars have no toilets, so you have to wait until it stops at the Arakawa garage, where there’s a bathroom break.

Toei, which runs the streetcar (as well as the Toei subway line and city bus system), says that it set up the Biiru-go to help people forget not only the year but also “the recession.” In a way, it makes perfect sense for the line, colloquially called toden, to offer such a service. It’s probably the cheapest mode of transportation in Tokyo — ¥160 anywhere. Also, it’s the oldest. The municipal lines started in 1878 at horse-drawn carts that changed to light rails by the turn of the 19th century. In their heyday, streetcars were everywhere in Tokyo, but except for the Arakawa line, they had all shut down by 1972. So in addition to getting a buzz on, you can enjoy a piece of old time Tokyo — at old time Tokyo prices. But you’ll have to wait until next year.

This tax’s for you

Friday, October 16th, 2009

So many beer-like beverages, so little time

So many beer-like beverages, so little time

Last week, Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama ordered the tax ministry to review the alcohol tax system, specifically in relation to beer and so-called beer-like beverages. The announcement immediately sent the major breweries into a tizzy, since the likely outcome of such a review will be a higher tax for “Number 3-type” (daisan) beverages, which are responsible for most of the profits that alcohol manufacturers have enjoyed in the past year or so.

Though Hatoyama’s Democratic Party of Japan’s manifesto didn’t mention beer, the party’s policy, according to the Asahi Shimbun, is to look at the possibility of pegging the beer tax to a beverage’s alcohol level, which is the way liquor taxes tend to be determined overseas. At present, daisan beverages and happoshu are taxed at much lower rates than beer, even though the alcohol levels of all three are comparable. If the DPJ does peg tax rates to alcohol levels, then the prices of all three beverages will likely become the same or close to the same; a situation that would essentially render daisan and happoshu meaningless, since the only reason they sell so well is that they’re much cheaper than beer. A 350-ml can of daisan, for example, is on average about ¥80 yen cheaper than an equivalent-sized can of beer.

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