Shop Girls as fashion leaders

20 Jun

Shop Girls
5/NOV/2008 on air

Do you want to work as a shop assistant at a famous shop in Tokyo? Look how severe it is.

What are they saying? I can tell you…

Kanako Yanagihara’s comedy pretending as a sales assistant sounds fun, but it’s very hard in Japan to work as a sales assistant. At lolita clothing shops, the sales assistants are totally dressed in sweet-loli from top to bottom. Cool visual-kei men at visual-kei shops, and goth-loli girls at Gothloli fashion shops. As you can see it’s sales assistants that lead Japanese street fashion. Even a man from Paris came to work in Tokyo as a shop assistant.

Let’s take a look into the real world of the sales assistants!
There was a time in the 90’s that some sales assistants at famous shops in Shibuya and Harajuku were called “Karisuma Tenin” (meaning charismatic sales assistants) and they went so famous and influential among shoppers and high school girls. Even fashion magazines and mass media often focused on them. Nowadays they are no longer called Karisuma Tenin but customers like to listen to their advice and learn the fashion trends from them.

6% DokiDoki’s job interview is so competitive 200 candidates compete for 1 opening position. Rieko is the shop girl (shop assistant) supported by many customers. Rieko, Mr. Masuda, the owner of the shop, and another girl from the shop are the interviewer at the audition. Every year over 600 people apply for the shop girl position of 6%DokiDoki, and this time only 10 of them who successfully passed the screening of application attend the audition. Candidates are dressed in sensational kawaii fashion.Some of them are the big fan of the shop for years and it seems there’s the one starting to cry when she was to promote herself.

Shop girl is not just a sales assistant, when it comes to the shop that is as famous as 6%DokiDoki.
She can be a fashion model at a small fashion show. She can design and produce apparel and dolls. Her blog can get 10,000 visitors a day, which is as popular as TV talent’s.

There are great 30 sales assistants that recorded top sales for 8 streight years at Cecil McBee at Shibuya 109. Unlike charismatic sales asssistants from several years ago, their team is composed of several different types of shop girls. Some are taller, some are shorter. The customers can easily find the sample girls whose body type look similar to theirs.

Their day starts from morning meeting. The chief tells what they have to stick to in order to accomplish the goal of the total sales amount. She emphasizes that they should boost average customer spend. She also refers to how to serve customers by role playing. She says they should not try to deny what the customers say immediately after they listen to that, but instead they should first agree with the customers and then naturally speak their advice. Job as a shop assistant looks fun and casual but the truth is 50% people are leaving because of its hard work! Cecil McBee however was successful in raising 30% of retention rate. How? Female staff can concentrate in serving customers while male staff take care of chores and controlling stocks at the backyard.

Lois CRAYON is a brand that records sales of yearly 5 billion yen in Ginza. This brand’s clothes are made for Lois, a fictional model that is 23 years old, 163cm tall, and violinist. Shop assistants who work for this brand are asked to have the image of “Lois”. The way they serve, they talk or behave should be as “Lois”. But it’s not among sales assistants but their customers also like to appear the image of “Lois”. This Lois shop has increased to 55 branches around Japan. Those who want to be “Lois” are increasing…

Back to the audition of 6%DokiDoki, they are checking how compatible the candidates are at the fashion show. At the camera test, Mr. Masuda asks the candidates to make the kawaii girly look by saying “ha~kyu” to the camera.

Venus academy is where the students can learn how to serve customers at shops. Yoga, dance and makeup lessons are what the students are required to take at the school in order to be good-looking attractive shop assistants. They even have a class that teaches love psychology.

One candidate was selected as a shop girl of 6%DokiDoki. πŸ™‚

Kirin’s opinion:
I didn’t know that half of the workers are giving up their job as a sales assistant. But unlike how it sounds, stylists at beauty salons and shop assistants are not that easy. I liked the idea that Cecil McBee devided the work for men and women. That’s the way to leverage their strength. However I am not sure why Lois can be so popular…if this business model works out, Lois can be replaced by any image and there should be more shops of this kind. Anyways, how are shop assistants in your country? Are they also fashion leaders to the customers?

***There are archives of episodes listed under the page titled “Tokyo Kawaii TV” that is just located under the title banner of this blog.
***If you want to know the music that was used in the episode, please refer to this page and help yourself to find it by selecting the date when the episode was on air in Japan.

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25 Responses to “Shop Girls as fashion leaders”

  1. Marie June 20, 2010 at 11:19 am #

    Wow, that sounds very cool, but also a bit difficoult. It's really not like that here. Many shops here hire teenagers who work after school, and it takes a while for them to know all about the shop and the produtcs.
    But working in Japan seems fun, especially in a Lolita-shop, hihi (:

    • kirin June 21, 2010 at 12:29 am #

      Thank you for your comment. I think in Japan it's normal to be required to work full-time at shops like these. But many restaurants, cafes, and Izakaya hire part-time school kids. Anyhow it's true at any business and industry in Japan, we take working so seriously. Over-time work is as a matter of course to anyone, anywhere. It's just like we have to think more about the job and the coworkers than our family…(T_T)

  2. exotic_japan June 20, 2010 at 12:51 pm #

    Interesting article. Your articles are always so very informative. I appreciate that. My posts are mostly just photos of strange or funny stuff. πŸ™‚

    • kirin June 21, 2010 at 12:39 am #

      Your post the other day for example was from great photoshop work and that was funny. πŸ˜‰ Blogs can be any style. I like yours, too. I am trying to make my blog informative and useful to the readers rather than sharing "what I did today" kind of stuff. It however takes much time and effort, in addition to the fact I am doing this in foreign language. 😦 But it's OK, I can keep my English skills in this way. Otherwise living in Japan with Japanese partner, surrounded by 100% Japanese environment makes me forget English. haha…^ ^;

      • exotic_japan June 21, 2010 at 5:53 am #

        Your informative style is very good for foreign people who are interested in Japan.Yes, I can imagine it rakes a lot of work to make such an educational blog, and it is amazing that you can keep your English ability with a Japanese partner and surrounded by only Japanese people.γŒγ‚“γ°γ£γ¦γ­οΌ ^^

      • kirin June 22, 2010 at 11:54 pm #

        Thank you so much for your encouragement. It's so nice of you, really. γ‚γ‚ŠγŒγ¨γ†γ€‚εŠ±γΏγ«γͺγ‚ŠγΎγ™οΌοΌΎοΌΎ

  3. Patty June 20, 2010 at 1:22 pm #

    That is so interested to see that there's an academy that trains the girls to be shop assistants. In US, it's very simple, if you are presentable and looks like you can do the job, you'll get it. For a clothing store, they do require the clerks to dress in the brand they sell. If it's in a department store (i.e. Macy's) they are more competitive to get client to open store charge accounts. Some store, (i.e. Abercrombie) they pick shop assistants from their customers. If they are a certain build, look, that are fitting in their clothes nicely, they would be approached and see if they wanted to work at the store.

    • kirin June 21, 2010 at 12:44 am #

      Cool, I like the U.S way especially that the sales assistants are picked out from the customers!
      Yeah, I think that scholl stuff is way too much. That makes the thing too complicated. 😦 Under such a bad economy, spending certain money to learn how to serve customers might be a plus and is competitive to the other candidates…

  4. Diyana June 21, 2010 at 1:23 pm #

    I'm doing a part time sales assistant job at Spore's Night Safari! Serving customers from around the world is fun. But we have to wear a uniform which is so ugly. I actually thought of working in Japan in sales, but I guess it's a tough competition.

    • kirin June 23, 2010 at 12:20 am #

      Not every shop has such tough competition but working in Japan means you have to treat customers as someone superior to you. Shop assistants are always so modest, always bowing. When there's no customer around the shop, you cannot even sit down and chat with co-workers. You'll have to look for the work such as cleaning, organizing stocks, writing direct mails, and so many other things. But of course foreigners working in Japan (eg. Malaysian restaurants in Japan) are making great efforts to adjust themselves to our way of serving customers.

  5. Steven Stier June 22, 2010 at 4:14 am #

    As an older American male I was surprised that I watched this entire video. But I was fascinated by the amount of effort these candidates put into getting this job. (Not to mention the fact that I enjoy looking at attractive women) I can think of no shops in America that have such high standards for sales people. But there is a huge difference in the Japanese approach to sales and the American approach to sales. One thing I really miss about Japan is the attention and service you receive when going into a store. In America it is not uncommon to have to look for a sales person. They have little training and seem to look at their job as a very short term position.

    • Amanda June 22, 2010 at 8:17 am #

      It's the same in Australia. I think their attitude is reasonable though as managers seem to look at them as short term, unskilled employees. It sounds like these girls are really given opportunities and I think that's great.

      • kirin June 23, 2010 at 12:04 am #

        No wonder I feel our way looks too extreme. That's why I was just surprised to see how shop girls in other countries are so laid back. They enjoy chatting among other staff nevertheless customers are in the store. Things like this is absolutely NO-WAY in Japan. Basically shop assistants cannot even take a seat when they are on duty. Have you noticed cashiers in Japan always stand up? They are not allowed to have a seat. Thus it's only while lunch time when they can take a seat to rest. 😦 I one thought of working as a shop girl but I didn't like I had to keep standing for over 10 hours or so everyday. It's a hard work…:(

  6. Amanda June 22, 2010 at 6:54 am #

    It's much harder to be a shop girl in Japan than in Australia. I love the customer service in Japan, staff have pride in their stores and are so polite. πŸ™‚

    • kirin June 23, 2010 at 12:09 am #

      Yes it's hard and usually their payment is not that good. They cannot continue the job when they get old because old women will not suit the atmosphere of the shop no matter how her skills and experiences are superior. In Japan we have to write down age and married/unmarried on resume. If the person is too old, married and she has small kids, she is unlikely hired as a sales girl at most of shops of young fashion. 😦

  7. silk June 22, 2010 at 7:04 am #

    I don’t think I’ve seen anywhere else where sales assistants totally display the image of the store they are working in. This was really interesting. Thank you. ^-^b

    Btw, next episode seems to be super entertaining. Could you post it, too, please? ^^

    • kirin June 23, 2010 at 12:13 am #

      OK~, then I'll tackle with the episode of street snap next time. So many new episodes are still left only waiting for my English summary…@_@

      • silk June 24, 2010 at 11:30 pm #

        Oh, no wonder. All episodes are very interesting. ^_^
        Thank you, once again!~

  8. Dean June 24, 2010 at 1:08 pm #

    Great job and great video. I really like the way you explained yourself in this video. I hope you can make more videos like this. It is a very educational video for everyone who wants to know more about Japanese way of saying and doing things.

  9. Juliette June 29, 2010 at 4:55 pm #

    I just found your website/blog and it is so very informative and helpful and interesting! Unfortunately, here in the USA many stores have staff that don't know anything about products, unless it is something more specific like hardware or art supplies. I worked at an IMAX (large screen movie theater with 3D movies very often) for a summer and I was one of the only people that actually did work! We were supposed to sweep the floors in the theater after every showing but most people just swept it all under the chairs instead of fully cleaning! At malls service is usually pretty bad. All depends on the stores of course! Some clothing stores have very attentive staff. But at malls it usually seems to be high school or college (you might call this university?) aged kids, often with bad attitudes and seem to want to just talk on their cellphones the whole time or text (even though cellphones are usually supposed to stay in the locker/staff rooms). I've even been in stores where the person was using the STORE phone to make calls and completely ignoring the customers lining up to check out or ask questions… this person was leaning/lying-half-way on the counter too! I am 24 now, but even when I was 16 and working I thought this type of behavior was wrong. But I guess that's considered "old-fashioned" here. Haha! It's sad, but most of these jobs are just short-term or "summer" jobs so it isn't taken as seriously. Like I said though, not everyone/everywhere is like this! But it does contrast sharply to the Japanese ways. Oh, and regard to stores like Abercrombie that choose workers from customers, that type of thing is considered really unfair by most (or at least many) people and kind of wrong. I can see why it sounds so appealing to people/cultures used to selective work environments, but in the USA there are laws against people not hiring a person based on looks, gender, ethnicity, religion, and even disabilities like if you used a wheelchair. It must be hard in Japan where mothers might not be able to find a lot of jobs just because they are mothers or over a certain age! I understand that shops want a certain "feel" and I do agree with that in a lot of ways, it just must be difficult. :0(

    • kirin June 30, 2010 at 12:37 pm #

      Thank you for visiting my blog and leaving your comment here.
      In Japan, even if the job is short term, designed for high school kids or something, workers are usually very serious. I think as far as being a customer, shopping or receiving services in Japan is so comfortable and stress free.

  10. Kimi August 4, 2010 at 8:04 pm #

    I really love how Japanese stores really promote the look of their store, and how the Staff-chan's take their job really seriously. A lot of the girls who work at the shops I really admire~ Especially Jesus Diamante staff. C:

    It's really different from here in Canada. I worked as a Sales Assistant for a while and half the people I worked with basically just threw on some of the stores brand name clothing and did not bother to do anything with their hair and makeup. Also, as someone who worked five days a week, eight hour shift everyday, I maybe had two or three people actually want my assistance (like with finding an outfit, not asking where change rooms are, etc) a day if I was lucky. I find a majority of people here like to look and browse and find stuff on their own without any help. I suspect that it is quite the opposite in Japan~

    • kirin August 5, 2010 at 5:50 am #

      In Japan, of course customers look for the stuff by themselves. The sales assistants come talk to them to boost the sales. I mean, if the customer can find what she is looking for by herself, she just buys and go that it, right? But when the sales assistants talk to the customer very naturally and they suggest best match piece of clothes, other way of coordination and etc. the customer would buy them too. This is the sales and that's why Japanese shop assistants are working this hard. It's not only showing which item is where. They are trying to make every single effort to boost the sales of the store even 100yen more!

      I cannot believe why in your country such attitude at work can be allowed by the owner of the shop? The goal of the shop is to improve sales, and with achievement of that, the owner can even raise the salary of the workers. So workers' goofing off at work makes no sense to the owner, the employees themselves and the customers. Everyone works hard like that is because that's win-win to anyone. πŸ˜‰

      • kirin August 5, 2010 at 5:52 am #

        But it's true sometimes the way Japanese people work involves too much sacrifice of freedom and human rights, I think. 😦

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