Japan’s trend-chasing office workers and ladies who lunch are giving up Louis Vuitton handbags and Chanel jackets for Zara dresses and Gap jeans, making what was a favourite market for luxury manufacturers into one of their biggest headaches.

The downturn is forcing customers in Japan to scale back purchases of luxury goods, accelerating a long-term shift in consumer attitudes, according to a report by McKinsey.

Japan became the world’s “only mass luxury market” in the 1980s and early 1990s, when Japanese consumers saw ownership of a Louis Vuitton bag or Hermes scarf as a middle-class rite of passage.

But the growing confidence of shoppers in mixing and matching cheap and expensive products, coupled with competition from a growing array of luxury services such as spas and expensive restaurants, have robbed the brands of their hold on such spending.”

Read the full story @ FT.com (Financial Times)