Muji to step up large store openings in Japan's suburbs
Shops to feature cafes, bookstores with ample space to lounge
TOKYO -- The operator of the Muji retail chain will add more suburban locations that include cafes, bookstores and event spaces, hoping to better compete with big furniture and home improvement stores on the outskirts of Japan's major cities.
Tokyo's Yurakucho district and Osaka, Kyoto and Fukuoka's Hakata area are already home to some of Muji's 14 large stores, which have sales spaces more than double the regular 800-sq.-meter store.
Ryohin Keikaku, the Tokyo-based retailer that runs the chain, aims to have 100 of these large stores by fiscal 2020. Almost all of its existing 420-odd domestic locations are of the smaller variety.
The bigger outlets will showcase a wider selection of Muji's best-selling items such as cosmetics and processed foods, as well as bulky products such as furniture, which regular-size shops are unable to display fully. These locations will also offer a greater variety of cooking utensils and kitchen supplies.
In addition, they will feature Muji-brand cafes, bookstores and event spaces, aiming to attract more shoppers and encourage them to stay and relax. Its Cafe & Meal eateries serve dishes cooked with natural ingredients, while its bookstore space sells lifestyle and travel-related books. The event spaces hold exhibitions and workshops, which President Satoru Matsuzaki sees helping "contribute to higher customer numbers and spending per customer." Muji will also expand its interior-design display areas.
Existing stores with high customer traffic, such as those in large shopping centers or alongside main roads, will either be expanded to relocated to bigger sites nearby. Over the next three to four years, the retailer plans to convert more than 20% of its stores to the larger format.
With help from the higher-earning outlets, Ryohin Keikaku aims to lift group operating profit to 60 billion yen ($532 million) in the year ending February 2021, up 60% over last fiscal year. It will face competition for suburban shoppers from the likes of furniture retailer Nitori Holdings, which also runs big outlets.