Department stores in Japan opening small shops to attract young customers

PHOTO: Japan News/ANN

Regional department stores are working hard to cultivate new customers, taking such steps as joining forces with rival large shopping centres and expanding their network of small stores. They're especially focusing on young people, who are moving away from department stores, and their efforts are gradually yielding results.

AICHI: Banking on anime goods
By Tetsu Okazaki / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writer

Kintetsu Pass'e, the Nagoya store of the Kintetsu department store chain, contains many shops aimed at young women in their teens and 20s, including those featuring Shibuya and Harajuku fashion from Tokyo.

Since April this year, Kintetsu Pass'e has been strengthening its lineup of shops dealing with anime goods, bringing in retailers that sell items from titles such as "One Piece" and "Yowamushi Pedal (Weakling pedal)." This has attracted a fair number of customers, the department store says.

A Tower Records outlet in the department store opened a special shop called Tower Anime in July, by creating independent sales corners for CDs and DVDs containing theme songs and other music from anime. They have also expanded their lineup of such products, and sales have doubled since before the opening of Tower Anime.

"I enjoy shopping here because I can look at a lot of different products and make my choice," a 20-year-old woman visiting the shop said with a smile.

The area is scheduled to be redeveloped for the opening of the Linear Chuo Shinkansen, so the department store's building will be demolished in the future. Whether it can continue to operate will be determined by its current and future business performances.

"I hope the new customers' purchases will raise the level of our sales," said Kenji Higuchi, the manager of Kintetsu Pass'e.

MIYAGI: Promoting high quality at small stores
By Tomofumi Yonezawa / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writer

Sendai-based department store chain Fujisaki opened a small store called Vie Fujisaki Rokuchonome-ten in a suburban shopping centre in Wakabayashi Ward, Sendai, in May. The Sendai municipal subway's Tozai Line is scheduled to start operations in December, and the housing land development has been underway around it.

"I can easily get to the store by car and buy high-quality items here. I want to use both the small store and the main store depending on the purpose, such as going to the main store when I want to have more options," said a male company employee in his mid 30s. He had visited the small store to buy thank-you gifts for people who gave him presents or money to celebrate the recent birth of his child.

The Sendai Mitsukoshi department store opened the small MI Plaza Furukawa store in Osaki, Miyagi Prefecture, in May. For customers who cannot often come to the central part of Sendai, it complements the functions of the main store.

Fujisaki operates a total of 10 small stores in the prefecture, aiming to have customers experience the appeal of the department store and draw them to the main store. Many customers stop at such small stores while shopping at supermarkets and elsewhere, but they don't necessarily buy products there.

"We'd like to cultivate new young customers who are said to be moving away from department stores," Koji Kusaka, the manager of Vie Fujisaki Rokuchonome-ten store.

OKAYAMA: Just the right size
By Mutsuko Kuwata / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writer

Takashimaya Okayama Store opened the Takashimaya Foodmaison Okayama in the large shopping centre Aeon Mall near JR Okayama Station in December last year. The store is crowded with customers who are 10 to 15 years younger than those coming to the main store, located about 200 meters north of the shopping centre.

On the about 1,900 square-meter floor, there are 31 tenants including a cafe of the Paris brand Fauchon, as well as a fish shop and a store offering prepared meals.

Takashimaya Foodmaison Okayama is aimed at encouraging young people and families who frequent shopping centres to enjoy shopping at the department store, which offers high-quality products. During the daytime, company employees working nearby come to the store to buy bento lunch boxes or gifts for their business associates.

"The store is close to the station and just the right size. The sales staff's voices are lively," said Haruka Kimura, 22, a company employee of Kita Ward, Okayama, who uses the store two or three times a week.

There also are many male customers who were transferred to the area without their families, a group not seen at the main store.

"By using the shopping centre's strong ability to attract customers, we'd like to increase the fans of the Takashimaya department store with our sales staff's expertise and courteous service," said Tatsuya Inagawa, 41, the store's sales manager.