Stores prepare for peak season of iconic backpack sales despite soaring prices

Japan Times -- May 04
The new school term began in April, but stores are already preparing the newest models of the iconic randoseru backpacks for children who will enter Japan’s elementary schools in 2023 as families increasingly purchase them earlier — and with higher price tags.

The search for a perfect randoseru is expected to be in full swing during the Golden Week holidays, which fall between the end of April and early May every year. Dubbed rankatsu, the act of shopping for school supplies sees parents and grandparents visiting popular department stores and randoseru specialty shops to reserve their favorite design before it sells out.

Randoseru are the hard-sided leather backpacks used by children in Japan for the entire duration of elementary school. The name itself derives from the obsolete Dutch word ransel, a type of backpack used by soldiers long ago. Traditionally, the randoseru is given to a child at the beginning of their first year of elementary school and that same bag is used until they graduate from sixth grade and move on to junior high.

According to an annual nationwide survey conducted by the Randoseru Kogyokai, an industry association of randoseru makers, the average purchase price has risen nearly ¥20,000 ($153.53 at current exchange rates) in the past decade. In 2021, the average price was ¥55,339, up from ¥36,500 in 2011.

Until 2020, randoseru priced between ¥40,000 and ¥54,999 were best-sellers, according to the association. But in 2021, the more expensive ones priced ¥65,000 and above became the most popular, with more people buying models priced between ¥55,000 and ¥64,999 compared to the year before.