Posts Tagged ‘shopping’

2012: The year in buildings

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

There was a lot going up in Tokyo in 2012, most notably Tokyo Skytree. It really felt like the landscape of the city shifted this year, more than it has in the nearly 10 years since Roppongi Hills opened.

Trendy magazine ranked Tokyo Skytree as the biggest new-development hit of the year, noting that some 20 million people visited the tower within the first four months after it opened to the public on May 22. In addition to the tower, a shopping center and a half dozen hotels opened up around it – more concentrated, large-scale development than the area east of the Sumida River has seen in decades, if not ever. The recreational complex is called Solamachi (“skytown”), and it was named one of Japan’s top 10 buzzwords for 2012.

Trendy also had a good roundup of other construction milestones of the past year, and some impressive statistics – proving (as if it needed to be proved) just how much Tokyoites love new things.

Mitsui Outlet Park Kisarazu

This mega outlet mall, with 171 shops, opened on April 13 just across Tokyo Bay in Chiba — on the less-visited “uchibo” (inner) coast. As a result, use of the Aqua Line (the toll road that traverses the bay) doubled on weekends for the first half of the year.

Diver City Tokyo Plaza

Odaiba’s latest shopping center, filled with fast fashion brands, opened just a few days later, on April 19. Within the first two months, 4,000,000 people had paid a visit. Diver City did get a little help from a great big guest of honor — a 1:1 scale model of Gundam, which demonstrated the mainstream marketability of anime.

Shibuya Hikarie

This 34-story glass tower, which opened on April 26, is a big deal. It’s the first in a series of redevelopment projects that Tokyu Corp has planned for Shibuya over the next decade to bring moneyed sophisticates (read: shoppers older than Shibuya girls) back to the neighborhood. By the end of the first five months, 10,000,000 people had visited Hikarie and sales were 20% higher than projected.

Tokyo Station

On Oct. 1, Tokyo Station unveiled the results of a painstaking renovation project that saw its domes – destroyed in WWII air raids – finally restored. During the first week of October, passengers using Tokyo Station increased by 140%.

With all of this, next year is likely to feel dull in comparison. Or will it? 2013 will see the continued renaissance of the Marunouchi area, with the opening of the JP Tower in March, which incorporates the original 1933 Japan Post Office facade and promises nearly 100 shops. In April, Kabuki-za will reopen after a three-year renovation, and Mitsui has another outlet mall planned for the summer, also in Chiba.

Bicqlo – Bic Camera meets Uniqlo – is here!

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

Bicqlo

JR Shinjuku Station on opening day for Bicqlo. (Rebecca Milner photos)

Bicqlo—the much-hyped Bic Camera and Uniqlo mash-up store—opened in Shinjuku today. And for those who weren’t aware yet of its impending existence, the floors of the JR station in Shinjuku were papered with announcements. Plenty did seem to know, as there were plenty of people inside (and plenty of press leading up to the opening). It wasn’t H&M-opening crowded (no lines to get in after the initial early birds got inside), but there was still a healthy line for the dressing room and enough pushing and shoving to make one question Japan’s prevailing image as a polite and orderly place.

So what exactly is Bicqlo? Sadly, not much more than an ordinary Bic Camera with a Uniqlo sandwiched in the middle. Fans of both brands might be tickled to hear the familiar Bic Camera theme song give a nod to Uniqlo, or see Uniqlo staff wearing Bic Camera-style happi coats. The merchandise, however, save for a few in-store-only Uniqlo items, is essentially the same.

It is all also the same color. As Uniqlo mannequins wearing the brand’s new fall line-up and accessorized with Bic Camera goods (cameras and electric kettles, for example) demonstrate, everyone seems to be working from the same color forecasting charts. Good news for those who want to match their jeggings with their appliances.

However, we’re wondering what Uniqlo is doing matching its clothes with suggestions of housework. The brand has worked so hard over the last few years to give itself a more fashionable image, first with the now-closed UT store in Harajuku and then through its designer capsule collections (with designers like Jun Takahashi no less) and, most recently, by sharing real estate with the decidedly upmarket Dover Street Market in Ginza. Paired with a vacuum, even if it is a sexy Dyson, that down vest just doesn’t look anything but functional — but perhaps that’s back where we’re at, economy-wise.

Indeed the bargain-basement prices that both stores are offering throughout the opening weekend (Sept. 27-30) seem to be the real attraction here. Those who spend ¥7,000 or more can also try their luck at winning limited edition collaboration goods from a gashapon-style capsule game. And, for the time being, you can exchange ¥1,500 worth of Bic Camera points for a ¥1,000 “Bicqlo Coupon,” which can be used at the Uniqlo here. (Unfortunately, it’s a one-way trade: Uniqlo purchases do not earn you points at Bic Camera.)

We’ve been seeing heaps of name-brand collaborations in Japan recently, like the Mos Burger meets Mister Donut shop Mosdo (which also plays on the Japanese fondness for squashing two words together to make a catchy new one). We also like the crossover advertising campaign that pairs Softbank’s popular and endearing “Shirato family” with the iconic Suntory Boss character, played by Tommy Lee Jones; like the individual campaigns, this mash-up is just plain clever.

Bicqlo wins on convenience: It really is useful to be able to pick up socks and printer cartridges in the same place. But as far as innovation, or even novelty, is concerned, isn’t the concept — cheap clothes and electronics in one store — essentially that of any big-box store, the likes of which are littered all over the (gasp!) suburbs?

Ekitame — coming to a station near you soon?

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

 

Will shops like Glicoya Kitchen in First Avenue, in Tokyo Station, become destinations in their own right?

Running for the train? Not so fast. According to a trend report released by @Press, Japanese people are spending more time browsing in train stations instead of bolting through them. PR flacks are calling this shopping experience “ekitame,”  combining the words eki (station) and entame (entertainment), to refer to the station shopping mall as an entertaining destination in its own right. Focusing on the continuing success of Tokyo Station’s First Avenue mall, the report hints that this shopping complex may be the shape of things to come.

Instead of just being a convenient place for commuters to kill time,  this station mall exploits the fact that tourists from all around the country pass through Tokyo Station. Two areas of First Avenue are particularly adept at attracting tourists: One is Tokyo Ramen Street,  which has eight outlets operated by famous Tokyo ramen shops; and the other is Tokyo Character Street, which houses over 20 big-name character goods stores.

Over the years, speciality food theme parks have proved popular in other shopping malls in Japan, such as Gyoza Stadium, Ice Cream City and Dessert Republic in Sunshine City Ikebukuro. Therefore, it’s unsurprising that  Ramen Street has proved a hit since it opened in April last year. It is attractive to  Tokyo day-trippers who might not have the time to trek out to these famous ramen stalls, and long queues regularly form outside the shops. But it’s Tokyo Character Street that’s proved the biggest hit. Since it opened in 2008, around 5 million visitors have checked out the array of character stores, which include Hello Kitty Land and the NHK Character Shop, and this March three more stores opened here.

Looking to raise its profile as a tourist destination, First Avenue will launch a new area called  Tokyo Okashi (Snack) Land on April 14. Comprised of  three “antenna shops” (outlets used by companies to gauge public reaction to trial products) from major Japanese food brands Calbee, Glico and Morinaga, the area will entice visitors with limited edition souvenir sweets and the chance to see confectionery being made in the store.

We think the idea of ekitame might just catch on at other major transport hubs where tourists passing through have the spare time to enjoy browsing in specialty stores. And adding the station to the sightseeing itinerary is certainly an attractive option to the footsore tourist.

Pointing out good deals

Monday, March 12th, 2012

In Japan it seems that almost every company offering goods or services has a point scheme, so much so that some people carry a separate wallet just for customer loyalty cards. Keeping track of what you can use these points for and when they are expire can be a hassle, but if you fail to do so, you could end up losing out.

Get the point?

The end of March is the deadline for using up Eco Points and, according to Otona no Kaisha News, ¥11.5 billion’s worth of Eco Points issued are yet to be exchanged for goods. A government scheme to support eco-friendly practices while invigorating the economy, Eco Points are accrued when buying domestic electronic appliances and can be exchanged for eco-friendly items before the end of the Japanese financial year.

This looming deadline is perhaps the reason why the website Poi Tan (“point search”) suddenly rose to fifth place in Google Trend Word rankings on March 3. Poi Tan aggregates a dizzying array of information on points and air mile schemes to allow users to keep track of their point balances. The website shows visitors how to convert dormant points into other points: for instance,points earned at department store Takashimaya can be converted into ANA air miles. It also alerts you when your points are about to expire.

If after searching Poi Tan, you’re still none the wiser on how to spend leftover Eco Points, then it’s worth bearing in mind that they can be sent as monetary donations to victims or to fund volunteer work in areas affected by the disaster last year. It’s also heartening to know that Tsutaya also run a similar scheme in which points accrued at their stores can be sent to a range of charities including the Japanese Red Cross Society and World Wildlife Fund.

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