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Asakusa shop progress ...

Posted by Dave Bull on July 2, 2017 [Permalink]

Incredible ... a bit of 'free time' this afternoon! So let's see if I can remember the password for this blog ... :-(

With the first half of the year now past (the calendar year is also our financial year), I am getting a measure on how we are doing. I haven't finished the entry of all the expenses yet, but I am ready with some information on the income side of the equation.

Let's have a look at four charts that show where we are at. Any numbers appearing on these things are in yen, so for people not so familiar with this currency, knock off the right-most two digits, and you're near a US$ figure (give or take about 10-12% difference currently ...).

Let's start with this one, showing the income of the Asakusa shop since it opened in late 2014:

The 2017 figure is - of course - just for the first half of the year. What are the categories? Starting at the bottom of the stack:

  • Tanpin: the single prints for sale in the shop, carved over many years by myself as part of my Surimono Albums series, and now being re-printed by our staff printers.
  • HangaClub: our 'brand name' for the series of postcard-size prints we publish, also for the most part printed from my own blocks.
  • Print Parties: our printing 'experience' - the one-hour sessions we run where people make their own prints.
  • Flea Market: our collection of older and antique prints, ranging from the early 1800s through to the post-war years. We of course don't make these; we find them at estate sales, dealer auctions, etc.
  • Heroes: Jed Henry's Ukiyoe Heroes prints. Note that we have none of his ink-jet versions in the shop, just the originals that are made here in Japan. (After printing, each stack is sent over to Jed in the US, where he signs and seals each one, before returning them to us.)
  • Numabe: these are prints we have been sourcing from craftsman printer Shinkichi Numabe, designed by Kawase Hasui and Toshi Yoshida. We have no access to those woodblocks, but Numabe-san is allowed by those publishers to privately distribute a number of prints from each batch he finishes from them, and he does so through our shop.
  • Doi Hanga: these are prints by Tsuchiya Koitsu and Kawase Hasui, made from blocks produced by the Doi Company in the pre-war period. They are of two types - old stock from their previous publishing activities, and new printings done here at Mokuhankan from the old blocks.
  • Great Wave: yes, this one gets its own category. Hokusai power!

I feel that one of my responsibilities as a manager of this business is to try and make sure that we are diversified enough to survive some sudden downturn that could happen to any specific part of our activities. Looking at the colours there, I think we're doing fairly well in that respect ...

So, we're clearly in a growth period ... but a very interesting aspect to the growth is the seasonal aspect. Here's the same data, bundled together and plotted month-by-month (these should be clickable for enlargements, by the way):

Spring - the cherry season - and autumn - the fall colours - are clearly our peak times, and of course this matches the timing of general tourism in Japan (more about this below).

The scale of the spring rush this year took us somewhat by surprise, and we had difficulty keeping many of our popular prints in stock. During the quiet winter months next time, we'll make sure to keep our printers working hard to get ready for the next cherry rush!

Now, that was the Asakusa shop, but have a few other arrows in our quiver:

The five categories:

  • Asakusa: the sum of all the categories we saw above.
  • Subscriptions: this is the revenue from collectors of our subscriptions prints based on the Ukiyoe Heroes series, all designed for us by Jed Henry.
  • Online sales: revenue from people purchasing prints via our online shop. We ship all over the world ...
  • Ukiyoe Heroes: we saw above - in the Asakusa section - revenue from selling these prints in our shop, but this section is different - these are orders from Jed himself. He designs the prints ... we then make them ... he then buys them from us at a wholesale rate, and sells them through his own webshop and at conventions and events all over North America.
  • Patreon: a new part of our income, starting just a couple of months ago. I approached our fan community for assistance in helping me hire staff to let me get back to my 'core' jobs ... carving, and managing. They responded wonderfully, and that transition is now well under way, as I will be reporting soon.

Here's the same graph from the previous (full) year - 2016:

Patreon didn't exist, and Ukiyoe Heroes revenue is quite different, but that is probably seasonal - there will be more orders from Jed as we move into the summer and towards the fall. The change in the other three categories reflects the very rapid growth of the Asakusa shop, which has thus automatically pushed the percentage of the other two down, even though they are also growing.

* * *

A minute ago I mentioned something about tourist seasons, and here's one final graph for this evening - the actual number of visitors to Japan each year:

I investigated and made my decision to open an Asakusa shop - right in the heart of the most popular district of the most popular city of what is quickly becoming the most popular country on this planet - in early 2014, just before that graph started to take off. Projections of these figures for the coming years are - literally - far off this graph.

Over the course of my life I've made many decisions, some good ... some bad ... but you know, maybe ... maybe ... this time I aced it!




Added by: Paul on July 4, 2017, 7:57 pm

Wow, that's great news. I'm surprised at the tourism statistics on the one hand - I'd always wanted to visit and never got around to it until 2013; why hadn't more people been visiting all along - and on the other hand it's not surprising at all, since Japan is a destination which, once you've visited once, you'll continue to visit forever I think. It's unique in that sense. I've travelled a lot and it's got a special magnetism.

Excellent performance in the shop is a double edged sword, I guess, since the more popular the shop becomes the more work there is for the person(s) in charge of it.

I'm looking forward to the update you teased about the manager who's going to come and fuel your glorious return to the carving bench.

Anyway congratulations :)


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