ALPAKA is a boutique scale manufacturer of alpaca fur and wool founded in 2007.
Its headquarters is located in Tallinn, Estonia (EU) and production units in both Peru and Estonia. They use the treasured alpaca fibre from the Peruvian highlands and design and interpret it in the Nordic way.
Business: ALPAKA is a boutique scale manufacturer of alpaca fur and wool
When asked why Japan, Ms Suiste explained that to them Japan is among the biggest retail markets in the world with customers who appreciate quality, design and natural materials. Japan is also one of the few Asian countries that has four seasons and where there is a demand for weather-safe and warmth-giving clothing. Thus, already in the beginning of their activities, they realised that their interest is mutual – 'We wanted to be active in the Japanese market and Japanese buyers at international trade shows showed great interest in our brand and products, so we decided to invest more in Japan-related activities'.
They were selling to Japan already before the EU-Japan Centre's Human Resources Training Programme (HRTP) for about 5 years. Yet, the sales were fluctuating a lot over the years and the communication was not smooth. The mission helped them ground their strategy better, learn about Japanese way of communicating, find new clients and improve relations with already existing ones.
In particular, after the training, they realised that Japanese customers' preferences are completely different than in any other market and they require a particular attention to the detail. This has encouraged them to make some changes in their existing range of products and come up with new ideas and techniques in order to meet the needs of Japanese consumers. The most effective way of communicating – proved to be face-to-face meetings with Japanese partners both in Japan and overseas.
After the mission, they have gradually increased their sales in Japan, diversified their client base and developed their products in order to meet their clients' needs. Ms Suiste explained that their key clients are initially the same but they have diversified their client base and started cooperation with several new resellers and distributors as well.
Since fall 2017, they started cooperation with a Japanese agent to increase their presence in Japan and find new selling points, mainly companies which avoid buying directly from a foreign company.
When asked about challenges Ms Suiste indicated that for them the main challenge was finding the right partner who was genuinely interested to work with them and to whom you were equally important.
In the future, they would like to have a stronger presence in the Japanese market, have new leads and start cooperating with local designers in order to provide custom-made clothes for their projects. In addition, find new clients in more regional, secluded areas in Japan, which in their opinion, is a niche for more potential and hidden opportunities.
Interview conducted with Maarja Suiste, Decoreter OÜ (ALPAKA) (January 2018)