Research

Commentary and insight from my research projects.

A reminder: we’re on the path to recovery, not at the end

Graphic showing a comparison of 2019-21

Regular readers may recall I keep an eye on trade between Japan and the UK. After a few rumbles about "dramatic" growth in trade, I went back to my (official) sources.

Needless to say, things were a bit weird in 2020. Japan's Covid slump was already in full flow when the UK's kicked off in the Spring of '20. The rapid growth in '21 is against that backdrop.

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Is Japan ripe for foreign investment?

Graphic showing euro notes moving towards a rising sun representing foreign direct investment in Japan

While working on a commission I came across a snippet of data that caught my interest. Japan's inward foreign direct investment (FDI) is shockingly low.

The dollar amounts barely register: $10.3 billion in Covid hit 2020, $13.7bn the year before. Amongst the G20 countries the mean was $33.7bn and $45.7bn. At no point in the past decade has Japan managed to attract more than $20 billion annually in inward FDI.

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A smaller workforce: the inevitable consequence of EVs

Graphic showing a Honda E electric vehicle amidst bright colours

Roughly 5% of Honda Japan's workforce opted for early retirement. This isn't about Coronavirus, it's about the growing realization car manufacturers need far fewer people in an electrified future.

Electric Vehicles have far fewer moving parts than their fossil fuelled counterparts. Simpler to build, they need fewer people on the production line. How much smaller the workforce needs to be is still open to debate, although 30-50% seems to be the consensus.

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Viet Nam’s lockdown is a global shipping problem

Viet Nam is having a tough time. Early success in containing Covid-19 has been undone by a surge of cases. Ho Chi Minh City is under lockdown and numerous production lines are suspended or scaled back significantly.

If you think this means you'll see fewer Nike trainers or Samsung phones in the shops you're half-right. In recent years, Hanoi has worked hard to turn the country away from being a sweatshop for fast fashion. Increasingly it's seen as a destination of choice for high-tech manufacturing and R&D.

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The Crypto Crash was inevitable: you have to wake up from the dream eventually

Graphic showing a bitcoin logo rolling down a chart

The week's "Crypto Crash" made for fascinating viewing. It seemed to come from nowhere, which is hardly surprising. Bitcoin and its ilk are less currency and more a mass consensual hallucination. Sooner or later reality crashes in.

There are no fundamentals to monitor, policy announcements to calm markets, deep analysis that makes long term projections possible. Supporters might say it's driven by rational thought, impervious to outside influence. Others might suggest it's pure emotion balanced by regression to the mean.

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2020: a bad year for Japan / UK trade

Illustration of a Japanese flag overlaid on a fading Union Jack

2020 was the year of the pandemic, and every economy suffered. My interest is Japan and the UK, and while many of my peers look at it from a UK perspective, I prefer the Japanese. I keep my findings on a page on LinkedIn, which I update from time to time.

Using data from Japan's official statistics authority, I've looked at how imports and exports with major markets have unfolded over the past 6 years. Then I've dug into the UK. Some highlights:

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Mobile product pages in fashion retail: a review

A woman holds her mobile phone while her friend looks at her screen. They are both laughing.

There’s no doubt 2020 had a profound impact on online shopping. As stores and high streets closed, many shoppers flocked to the websites of their favourite fashion retailer. Overall sales were down, yet online’s volume and share increased.

It is inevitable online shopping won’t go away. More than a third of fashion retail is online, and some have reported over half their sales happen on a mobile phone. This picture of consumers using their phone to shop makes a mobile friendly website as important to a small fashion retailer as having a phone or a way to take payment by card.

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About Ross Hall

Freelance digital editorial designer and content creator.

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