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Two Minute Tour: Tokyo

Japan's capital city offers shoppers great products, customer service and impeccable design




The Numbers

As Japan’s thriving, practically bursting-at-the-seams capital (a 2011 population estimate reflected more than 13 million people), Tokyo is considered one of the largest metropolitan areas in the world. It’s made up of 23 wards that are each governed as individual cities, and during the day the total number of people surges by more than 2.5 million due to an influx of students and commuters from outlying regions. “Everything about Tokyo is structured and considered, down to the finest details,” says Corey Dehus, executive director of design and brand at WD Partners’ San Francisco location. “There are millions of people moving through the streets and subway system, but it’s all amazingly ordered.”

The Pulse

“At first glance, Tokyo is an endless sprawl of gray, concrete jungle,” Dehus says, “but it does not take much digging to realize what makes it so great. You are guaranteed to be surprised and delighted by great products, customer service and impeccable design as you work your way through the seemingly never-ending number of unique districts.” Within those districts exists a slew of impressive retail outposts, including  long-established department stores in Ginza, the luxury retail in the Omotesando (Apple is slated to open its first new store in Tokyo since 2005 in this region) and the underground fashion scene with fast-fashion flagships such as H&M and Forever 21 in the Harajuku. Rents for prime retail space are high, running at $864 per square foot a year, according to CBRE Group Inc

The Hotspots

While Ginza is still Tokyo’s high-end retail darling – shoppers flock here for luxury labels such as Chanel and Gucci and the Matsuya Co. department store­ –  Dehus notes that the Shimokitazawa area is one of the more up-and-coming spots that caters to the younger, hipper crowds. There, you’ll find vintage havens galore such as Haight & Ashbury and copious independent boutiques. As for culinary prowess, Tokyo “boasts the largest number of Michelin-starred restaurants in the world,” he says. “You have to try really hard to have a bad meal.”



“Tokyoites expect the best on all fronts,” says Dehus. So for any retailer that’s either looking to move into the market or thrive in its existing locale, the challenges lie within delivering on those incredibly high customer expectations and truly understanding Japanese culture. “Being successful in Tokyo would take a lot of homework to make sure that you’re delivering your brand in a culturally appropriate way that would resonate.”




MasterClass: ‘Re-Sparkling’ Retail: Using Store Design to Build Trust, Faith and Brand Loyalty

HOW CAN WE EMPOWER and inspire senior leaders to see design as an investment for future retail growth? This session, led by retail design expert Ian Johnston from Quinine Design, explores how physical stores remain unmatched in the ability to build trust, faith, and loyalty with your customers, ultimately driving shareholder value.

Presented by:
Ian Johnston
Founder and Creative Director, Quinine Design

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