Ichiban Kan USA to close their online business, but other online bento supply merchants are doing fine

One of the major online sources for bento boxes and other supplies, Ichiban Kan USA, will be closing their mailorder business down as soon as they sell out their existing stock. To quote part of the announcement from their official blog:

Ichiban Kan has been hit by the recent economic situation, and it has been determined that there is no way to continue the online store at this time.
While we do hope to re-establish our online presence in the future when a better financial situation arises, we will be indefinitely closed.

This is sad news indeed, especially for bento fans in the U.S. While they haven’t been in the online business for long, Ichiban Kan was a great source for inexpensive bento goods and other Japanese products. They say that that they will continue to operate their brick and mortar stores in the San Francisco area.

I contacted some other popular online bento supply sellers to see how they were doing in the current economy, and the good news is that they seem to be doing very well. Here’s what they said.

Peter Payne of J-List.com (and the PG-version, JBox.com): “J-List/JBOX is frankly doing great, selling more Hello Kitty onigiri sets and bento boxes than we can restock, even in the soft economy. I think the fact that we have so many items, including fun but inexpensive items for people to choose from, is helping us. ”

Sofia Takami of From Japan With Love: “We are doing very well, and are always adding cool and unique items to our bento section and happily ship to anywhere in the world!”

Thomas Bertrand of Bento&Co also says that they are doing very well and continuing to develop and grow their business; they are already shipping to North America regularly despite the fact that they are still working on an English version of their site. (To quote him directly: “Bento&co continue son développement. Pour l’instant, le site n’est qu’en français, mais cela nous permet d’apprendre et de nous professionnaliser avant une ouverture en anglais pour un meilleur service.” Things always sound better in French, don’t they?)

So I think there’s no reason for bento box and accessory fans to worry about their sources drying out. I personally believe that it’s well worthwhile splurging on a cute or beautiful bento box or two that you’ll enjoy using every day. Even if your budget is too tight to buy cute bento things, you can start out with basic, inexpensive airtight boxes that you can buy in any household good store. See Selecting the right bento box for more ideas.

Do keep in mind that you’ll be saving money overall by bringing your own, healthy lunches instead of eating out or buying fast food and takeout. There have been several articles in the Japanese press recently about more people taking homemade bentos to work because of the economy. Bentos are great for saving money in these tough economic times!

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Re: Ichiban Kan USA to close their online business, but ...

How sad! I hope they will be able to bring back their online store!

Re: Ichiban Kan USA to close their online business, but ...

Oooh, I hadn't seen Bento & Co. before! Their prices are a bit steep, but the products are GORGEOUS! Perhaps the French I use so rarely these days will get a workout soon. :)

Re: Ichiban Kan USA to close their online business, but ...

I have a serious problem with people who have access to actual IK and Daiso stores who buy gear and then resell it for five times the price. I'm sorry, that's just not kosher in my book.

I've often thought about buying in bulk from the Daiso site (their only option) and starting a little resale business of my own with fair pricing. :P

I know the point is to make a profit, but paying $10 for a box which originally cost $1.50? INSANE!

*gets off soapbox*

Re: Ichiban Kan USA to close their online business, but ...

I just did what I could to support Ichibankan, even though they are closing the online portion of their store.

This was the push I needed...

to indulge my bento obsession. I bought just about every bento-related item I wanted and still didn't break the bank.

Re: Ichiban Kan USA to close their online business, but ...

I just want to say that I am very sad to hear of their closing. I've made many online purchases with them and so have my friends and coworkers. They have impeccable customer service and my goods always arrive withing 3-4 business days here on the West Coast of USA.

Re: Ichiban Kan USA to close their online business, but ...

Bah. They were my favourite online store, partially because I can't afford most of the others. Suppose this means I'll have to stock up when I'm in San Francisco this weekend!

Re: Ichiban Kan USA to close their online business, but ...

That's terrible. It's sad how many Japanese import businesses have been hit by hard times. Two of the 3 branches of my favorite market Jasmart in NYC have closed suddenly, so I found out this week. The lack of variety of stores also means a lot of the Japanese ingredients I used to get easily will now take more time to get and I will probably end up spending more on my staples as well.

The reasons for Japanese businesses closing

One reason why some Japanese or Japan-goods oriented businesses are closing may be the very bad exchange rate of yen vs. dollar. At the moment it's about 95 yen to a US dollar, which is very bad for businesses importing goods from Japan, whether it's JAS Mart, Ichiban Kan or Toyota (though the latter can protect themselves of course by manufacturing in the country they sell in).

In the late '80s when the 'bubble economy' in Japan burst, I saw a lot of Japanese businesses close up shop in the U.S. because things got so bad back home and they just lost confidence, not to mention extra funds. Now things are bad both in Japan AND in the US (or Europe, etc) so there may be more businesses giving up and pulling up stakes. But then there will always be those intrepid businesses that will hang in there until things get better again.

Re: Ichiban Kan USA to close their online business, but ...

Here's hoping the Yen gets stronger!

Re: Ichiban Kan USA to close their online business, but ...

All of the webshops that you queried and that are doing well ship to locations outside of the US. Ichiban Kan only shipped within the US. Maybe accepting international orders for what are, quite frankly, very international products might be part of their success.

Re: Ichiban Kan USA to close their online business, but ...

they can thank californias lovely senators for that..California is in the hole at the moment. They have one of the highest unemployment rates. Its at like 11.5% I believe. like 4th highest or somethin like that.

Re: Ichiban Kan USA to close their online business, but ...

OMG, I just found out about this when I went to their site. IT'S TERRIBLE! One more reason to hate Bush and his buddies that drove this country and the rest of the world into the gutter. It's not fair for Ichiban Kan that they have to close because they get taxed too much in California. They're honest people that's why they closed. They didn't want to scam customers with high prices. I just saw the egg molds in one of the sites mentioned here and they're like 5x the price of what I bought them for at Ichiban Kan.

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