Girl's power from department stores

10 May

Girl’s power From Department Stores
12/DEC/2009

Are Japanese department stores dying…?

Department store industry in Japan has been suffering from economic downturn for years. They need to change their old way of business to survive today. A long-established department store in Osaka tries to change itself by challenging a new strategy. Daimaru department store has targeted the 40s, 50s, and 60s so far, but they are now changing it to the age group of 18 to 34. They opened a large gyaru fashion floor with new 27 stores and 200 gyaru sales assistants. But it was not as easy as how it sounds. There was a big gap between casual way by gyaru sales assistants and very strict and formal way by Japanese department store. Daimaru had to educate the gyaru sales assistants how to properly wait on a customer in a Daimaru way. They located a service patrol who often keeps an eye on the gyaru sales assistants if they are doing fine. “You are not wearing your name tag.” “You are greeting to your customer but you are not looking at her.” The patrol is also very strict.

Whatever way it is, it is a must to survive for the department store industry in Japan now to act for something new! Department stores are dying in this country with less and less sales each year! It’s not only the problem of Daimaru. Other major department stores in Tokyo also try their best to stop customers staying away from them. Can kawaii be the last resort to survive of the industry?

Ishikida-san is a first-prize winner from the customer service contest.
It’s a contest that let participants compete for the best quality of customer service. Ishikida-san competed with 29000 competitors and she won a championship. The contest influenced the industry a lot. There are some stores that force their sales assistants this role playing practice every morning before they open. This also looks something strict.

What is the Ishikida-san’s customer service technique? Ask what the customer wants naturally. Study well the products (outfits she sells) beforehand and share the knowledge with the customer.

Shinjuku Isetan keeps going as “department store”. At a new selling space they target the age group of 18 to 22. They can be students, and sometimes they shop with their moms. Shinjuku Isetan hired a designer/owner of GREED to order a new uniform for the sales assistant at this selling space. They have to think of how mothers would think if the short pants are too short. That’s how the length of the pants are determined as this way.

Shibuya Tokyu Food Show is the pioneer of Depachika since it opened 58 years ago. (* Japanese department stores usually locate the floors of foods, delicatessen, bento stores, bakery, sweets, liquor, and etc. sometimes grocery stores, too. This food floor is called “Depachika” in Japanese, as they are usually at lower level of the department stores. “Depa”=department store “Chika”=underground.) A small christmas cake developed by Honma-san for working women was a big hit. Secret to success was the size of the cake. 12cm of diameter was good for one adult. It can be finished at a time, not to be left over to the next day. It was also good to ask honest opinions from 20 women who love sweets.

Okada-san at Nihonbashi Takashimaya is professional at Furoshiki wrapping. She developed her own way of wrapping. Actually Furoshiki is super cool because it’s fashionable and eco friendly, compared with paper wrapping.

Ikebukuro Seibu department store tried to attract their customers with Hello Kitty. 33000 people for 12days were attracted by the Hello Kitty event. What’s cool about their way is that they made Hello Kitty dress the same clothes as the mannequin at each store. Those who saw Kitty go to the store, and 2 out of 3 people bought something after all. With the hit of Hello Kitty event in Ikebukuro Seibu, they did the same thing at Yokohama SOGO. (*SOGO and Seibu is owned by the same company.)

Finally Terasaka-kun, a Japanese department store otaku, has visited over 280 department stores in Japan and published his book about it. He has the ideal department store plan that he has developed since he was a kindergarten student. He collects floor guide from each department store he visited, which means 280 guides from 280 department stores, but unfortunately 10 out of them have already closed.
Suzuki-san is a demonstration sales woman. Her salary is 100% by commission. She has to keep stock by herself and she has to practice to improve her presentation skills everyday. She prepares script and memorize it completely.

Kirin’s opinion
I always wonder if it’s so important to give or receive the strictly trained customer service in Japan. As a customer, I feel so comfortable at receiving services even if I buy something very cheap or nothing. But as a worker, I think Japan can be one of the most stressful countries in the world. I have seen sales assistants singing and chatting among themselves in Sydney, Australia. I have seen sales assistants couldn’t answer my basic questions about the products at all in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I’m not complaining here. I’m saying they are still working like that, they are paid for that. So how come our people always have to work under such over-stressed way? Why can’t we be laid back a little bit? This is the part I feel most tired of living in Japan. It’s just suffocating. 😦 Anyhow it’s so true our department stores are having hard time now because most of them are keeping old model that is not quite compatible with today’s economy or diversified way of life.

As for Furoshiki, I’d love to learn many ways of wrapping! There are some nice/kawaii Furoshiki stores in Tokyo and it’d be so cool if I can wrap my wine with it to bring to the party!
I think I saw the Hello Kitty event poster at Yokohama SOGO then.
Department store otaku! haha! There are any kind of otaku in this country. Was he crying when he was talking about 10 department stores that closed?

***There are archives of episodes listed under the page titled “Tokyo Kawaii TV” that is just located under the title banner of this blog.

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11 Responses to “Girl's power from department stores”

  1. lore May 10, 2010 at 12:19 pm #

    Oh my god!! I think it must be so stressful, I can't imagine working in that way, on weekend I work in a store ( Media Markt), I used to think that this place was stressful becouse all the people and my workmates are afraid of the chief haha.
    When I don't know something about the product don't matter I ask to other workmates for help and for the costumer it's ok, we are humans no robots it's normal not be perfect.

    • kirin May 10, 2010 at 11:35 pm #

      "We are humans no robots it's normal not be perfect." I totally agree with you. Working in this country, especially as a Japanese, is to be forced to work as a robot. I've felt this way in my life. That's why I want to be a world traveller who doesn't always live in Japan. It's just too stressful and suppressed.

      Good thing about that is all public transportations run on time, conference or any kind of events start on time, all Japanese people act on time. If we meet up with someone, we are supposed to be there 5 minutes before the appointment, which is a common sense in Japan that is taught from our childhood. Entire nation work and live like robots. This was the key to big economy, but I want to be a human. (X _ X)

    • kirin May 13, 2010 at 12:04 pm #

      "We are humans no robots it's normal not be perfect." I totally agree with you. Working in this country, especially as a Japanese, is to be forced to work as a robot. I've felt this way in my life. That's why I want to be a world traveller who doesn't always live in Japan. It's just too stressful and suppressed.

      Good thing about that is all public transportations run on time, conference or any kind of events start on time, all Japanese people act on time. If we meet up with someone, we are supposed to be there 5 minutes before the appointment, which is a common sense in Japan that is taught from our childhood. Entire nation work and live like robots. This was the key to big economy, but I want to be a human. (X _ X)

  2. Lisa May 10, 2010 at 1:09 pm #

    Haha, yes I think the Department store otaku *was* crying! Awww, I guess it's good that people are passionate about these things as well. 😉
    It's really interesting that Japan is trying to 'revamp' its department stores – I don't know of any other country that is as dependent on them as Japan. Even in the US (at least in smaller cities) alot of out traditional department stores are attached to/inside of shopping malls, which is a bit different.
    I agree that working in customer service in Japan must be sooo strsesful though! I appreciate the service there and I'm always impressed by the amount of knowledge the salesperson has about the product. It definitely makes it feel like I can feel sure that I'm getting what I'm asking for. At the same time, as you said, some salespeople seem so stressed that it makes me feel anxious as well! I liked the girl who won the sales competition though. She seemed quite natural.
    I'd love to be able to tie Furoshiki too! I was impressed by the baseball bat example – I would never have been able to figure it out!

    • kirin May 10, 2010 at 11:44 pm #

      I'm learning a new word from your comment. It's "revamp". 🙂
      I believe you understand how stressful Japanese working environment is, although it can be slightly different between gaijin and natives. Anyhow, I'm wondering why we have to be so rigid at work. If it's more relaxed one, I wouldn't have thought of quitting working as an employee. I had to be independent worker who works from home, having myself as a boss to myself, to be free from this stressful working environment.

  3. kirin May 11, 2010 at 12:25 am #

    Another example. The other day Forever21 opened in Ginza Matsuzakaya department store. This is typical example that shows a long-established department store has to rely on one of the most popular fast fashion brands that attracts a lot of young people. Unless otherwise, this combination sounds very weird when we think of characteristics of this department store. It's like wearing kimono and eat burger. But I appreciate their challenge!

  4. yumii May 11, 2010 at 5:42 am #

    Kirin! I agree with you about Malaysian sales assistants in malls!!! I am a Malaysian, myself, btw. But the truth is, somehow our sales assistants are a bit weird in a way that they treat foreigners especially western ones really good, but us Malaysian ourselves, they look at us like we're dirt! Most of the time they will just answer you "i don't know" because they are too lazy to help. i know it because when my friends worked as sales assistants in malls, they are like that too and they told me that it's the best way to avoid confrontation. U__U i'm so fed up with malaysian so-called courtesy.

    But it's still sad that most Japanese take their work too seriously that stress happened.

    • kirin May 13, 2010 at 12:13 pm #

      Is that true? They change their support depending on where the customer is from? They treat western people well and asian people including the locals worse? (o_o?) That's not good. I thought they don't have to be very polite like us. But changing their attitude depending on race is not nice. 😦 In KL, at a Birkenstock shoes store, the Malaysian shop assistant was very informative and helpful to me. There were many Birkenstock -looks like shoes at malls at cheaper price, but I was 100% satisfied shopping from her. I had a pleasant shopping experience there. 🙂

  5. Walter6735 May 13, 2010 at 7:02 am #

    Did anyone ask the employees how they felt about this customer-friendly approach ? I only see suppositions here about their stress.
    In Europe I regularly see news articles about worker satisfaction, of how satisfying or stressful people find their jobs.
    I can't read Japanese (yet) but do you have articles like that ?

    • kirin May 13, 2010 at 12:24 pm #

      No, I don't know if there are any equivalent reports existing in Japan, but usually these articles and surveys are also customer-oriented. Meaning, if the customer is satisfied with shopping experience or not. I think this is part of our culture because it's said "customers are GOD" in Japan and everyone knows it, especially when his work is related with sales and marketing. I think I am unique in this country who think this stressful. In Japan, this kind of manner and hospitality is a must to have if one works for a shop, restaurant, hotel, and any kind of work that one needs to talk to a customer for survice. This is quite basic thing here, and that's why I am suffocatingly fed up with its culture. It's just way too much. 😦

      • kirin May 13, 2010 at 12:27 pm #

        This means, job opportunities of working at shop, hotel, restaurant, any kind of service, etc. in this country are all closed for me. 😦 I cannot work like that. That will kill me!

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