Recently MoneySmart reader Eliza Tay told us about Singaporean online store Iuiga, which supposedly sells Muji products at cheaper prices than in stores.
Iuiga’s business model is to obtain goods from Muji’s manufacturer and sell them directly to consumers. Assuming that’s true, you’d be buying “authentic” Muji with the same Japanese minimalist aesthetic and quality we’re all so crazy about.
Since Iuiga doesn’t have Muji’s overheads (like store rental, hiring employees, running an entire global brand…) these savings are passed on to you, the consumer.
How much cheaper are these Muji products?
Here’s a quick price comparison of some bestselling “Muji same manufacturer” products. Images and original Muji prices are taken from Iuiga and valid as of 8 Jun 2018.
|Item||Price at Muji||Price at Iuiga|
|Bean bag sofa||$218||$129.90|
|Travel neck pillow||$33||$16.80|
|Memory foam bath mat||$34||$13|
|Quilt cover set||$128||$59.90 to $69.90|
|Cotton gauze pyjamas||$59||$29.90|
Bean bag sofa ($129.90, U.P. $218 at Muji)
Muji’s bean bags aren’t your regular bean bags. They feel like… giant cubes of mochi. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only person who’s wanted one of these forever, but always found the price prohibitive.
Travel neck pillow ($16.80, U.P. $33 at Muji)
One of the most popular items at Muji has been copied all over, most notably at Miniso (at under $10!). But just like their bean bag, the real Muji neck pillow has that “mochi” feel that’s hard to replicate. By the way, Iuiga sells a hooded version too.
Glass teapot ($15.80, U.P. $20.90 at Muji)
Of course you can get a teapot at any old Japan Home, but is it made with Muji’s super-clear glass and pure white acrylic!? I think not.
Memory foam bath mat ($13, U.P. $34 at Muji)
I don’t know if I want to spoil myself with an ultra-cushy bath mat. I mean, it’s something you use for literally only 5 minutes a day. The $34 price tag at Muji made this a silly luxury, but at $13, it’s a bit hard to not treat yo self.
Seat cushion ($19, U.P. $36 at Muji)
I don’t know which mochi factory Muji commissions to make their products, but somehow even their humble seat cushions feel amazing.
Quilt cover set ($59.90 to $69.90, U.P. $128 at Muji)
No matter where you go, it’s difficult to get good sheets for cheap. Considering the quality of Muji’s sheets, $60 isn’t such a bad price tag.
Cotton gauze pyjamas ($29.90, U.P. $59 at Muji)
I used to buy Muji pyjamas when I was depressed because I spent so much time in bed. I can vouch for their comfort.
Does Iuiga sell authentic Muji products?
According to Iuiga, the items are sourced from the same manufacturers that really do make Muji products.
In fact, working directly with manufacturers is the heart of their business. Iuiga has somehow dug into Muji’s supply chain and located the actual factories that make Muji goods – such as the Muji glassware factory, Muji bed linen factory and Muji slipper factory.
But is it an infringement of copyright? According to Iuiga, no. Here’s what they had to say:
“The design rights of Iuiga and Muji products belong to the manufacturer and not the companies.
The intellectual property of the product designs do not belong to either company. Any company can approach the same manufacturers.
Iuiga operates on an ODM (Original Design Manufacturer) business model. This means a brand will shortlist products they want to manufacture and an ODM will come up with a suitable design before manufacturing the particular product; with input from the brand. Manufacturers also propose designs which are bought by various brands to resell under their own brands.
The products will then be rebranded by the buying firm (Iuiga). Under this model, the exterior, aesthetics, materials, dimensions and patented technologies are developed by the ODM and these product and design rights belong to them.
There is no direct ownership of the product by any single brand entity, allowing the ODM to produce for more than one brand.”
(By the way, Iuiga does the same with lots of brands like Samsonite and Thermos. Maybe one day they’ll have a deal with Foxconn and then we can buy “Apple same manufacturer” phones too.)
Would you buy these if you’re a Muji fan?
If you have mixed feelings about this scenario, you’re not alone. My colleague Eugenia flat-out refused to write this article because she thinks there’s something realllllly iffy about this.
I guess she has a point. Think about it – what would happen if everyone started buying from Iuiga? Would we end up in a situation where Muji is no longer incentivised to innovate, design and develop their products? What happens when there’s no more Muji? How will we live!?
Of course, for most of us it doesn’t matter what relationship Muji (or any other brand) has with Iuiga. The 50% price difference sells itself.
P.S. There’s an Iuiga pop-up store at SingPost Centre (Paya Lebar). Follow their Facebook page for updates.
Over to you, reader. Would you buy “same manufacturer” products? Tell us in the comments!
Image credits: Iuiga
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