The International Toilet Seat Trade
I somehow stumbled over the existence of a rather expensive book analyzing
the international trade in wooden toilet seats.
The Icon Group International published a book titled
"The 2007-2012 Outlook for Wood Toilet Seats in Greater China".
And it's available for the low, low price of just US$ 495.
That seems like a somewhat exorbitant price, especially when it's a
forward-looking prediction for a time period that has already passed.
But still, this is a narrowly-focused publication for specialists.
The People's Republic of China is a large country with an enormous
population of over 1.4 billion people.
At the same time, there is a shortage of toilet seats in China.
That means a lot of potential toilet seat sales,
so maybe this publication makes more sense than it initially seems to.
Maybe vast wealth awaits me in the field of selling wooden
toilet seats to China!
Maybe I should investigate further.
China has very few wooden toilet seats right now because most of their
toilets are squat toilets.
Here, for example, is a public toilet at a park in Guangzhou.
This is a men's facility, so the urinal is the wall and trough at left.
It's 100% squat toilets, as is common in China.
The toilets themselves are specialized porcelain inserts,
and the squatting surface is simply ceramic tile with pieces custom-cut
to follow the key-hole shape of the toilet.
Sometimes there are ceramic raised foot pads, as in the below example
from a Buddhist temple in Guangzhou.
So, there might be a market for specialized items
like the foot pads or short hoses with spray nozzles.
But I don't know about wooden seats.
And that book is a little outdated.
Do they have anything more recent?
Oh my, do they ever...
A new edition comes out every two to three years!
This is getting somewhat suspicious.
The price jumps up for the more cutting-edge analysis.
But they can't be bothered to copy and paste the relevant map into place,
that's a U.S. map for the 2013-2018 edition!
Meanwhile I keep thinking about how most existing Chinese toilets
have no use for seats, wooden or otherwise.
Here's one in Guangxi:
China is rapidly evolving from a Marxist workers' paradise of the
classless society to a country with a wide range of affluence.
Inland, things may not have changed that much, at least not yet.
But the coastal cities are modernizing.
The growing middle class and the more affluent are more and more aware
of living conditions in other countries.
Many Chinese citizens now visit
where wooden toilet seats are a thing of the past.
Japan still has a lot of squat toilets, especially in public facilities.
But even at a temple or train station, there probably are raised porcelain
commodes in the majority of the stalls, with a few squatters for
Japanese toilet seats
are almost all padded, heated, and equipped with multiple washing water
streams and warm air drying.
I was in Japan for a month in 2017,
and I didn't see a single wooden toilet seat while I was there.
From what I've read, affluent Chinese citizens now want the clothing,
appliances, and home furnishings found in affluent settings abroad.
Someone who can afford to purchase and install a raised porcelain
commode is probably going to add a multi-function seat.
They might be expensive to import from Japan, but I"m sure that
Chinese factories will soon be cranking out enough clones to
keep up with domestic demand.
So maybe shipping wooden toilet seats to China isn't the road to
I'm sure there's a big market for wooden toilets in the United States,
but I'm skeptical that there will be much of one for China.
I'm not saying the the Icon Group International is misleading anyone,
I would imagine that they come to the same conclusion I have.
Although I'm not paying US$ 495 to find out.
Maybe there are other business opportunities.
What else does this Icon Group International publish?
A dizzying array of rather specialized publications.
For example, not just outlooks for selling ladders in India,
but separate analyses for ladders made from different materials:
And on and on.
Toilet seats and stepladders are all too common.
These folks really go down the rabbit hole on specialized analyses.
I don't know what some of these things are!
I don't claim to be an economic guru, but my completely free analysis
is that wooden toilet seats would sell in the U.S. but not in China.
As for the nicotine lozenges, heavy forged hand tools,
mesh split polyethylene and polypropylene strip bags, and so on,
if you can afford it, ask the Icon Group International.