With prospects for the Japanese economy still dismal after years of stagnation, JCB Co. Ltd. of Tokyo is continuing to look abroad for growth.
The credit card network and issuer managed to eke out 2.5% growth in transaction volume for its fiscal year that ended March 31, 2009 (the latest period for which full-year data is available), to about $75.5 billion. The brand achieved the growth partly by increasing its number of domestic cardholders by 2.9%, to 57.1 million, and the number abroad by 17%, to 5.5 million, a JCB spokeswoman said.
JCB achieved double-digit card growth abroad with a major push in China, Taiwan and South Korea, the spokeswoman said, noting it has acquired 3 million cardholders in China since entering that market in 2005. The company hopes to amass 10 million cardholders in Asian countries outside Japan "in a couple of years," she said.
A partnership with Discover Financial Services has brought JCB acceptance by mainstream U.S. merchants, said Scott Strumello, an associate at Auriemma Consulting Group Inc.
In its home country, JCB is the official credit card and an official sponsor of Tokyo Disneyland, the Kingdom of Dreams and Magic, and Tokyo DisneySea. It may consider the deal successful because it has attracted a major global partner, Strumello said, and Disney probably appreciates its power to solidify brand loyalty in Japan.
Changes in Japanese society are benefiting the card industry, too. Legislation passed in 2007, for example, lets Japanese consumers pay utility bills with cards.
Japanese often pay off their card balances each month, but younger cardholders have shown more willingness to borrow than their parents, Strumello said.