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Muji bets on food to navigate through prolonged COVID impact

Japanese lifestyle brand to allot 30% of floor space for veggies, bread and more

Ryohin Keikaku hopes that increasing food in its Muji stores will bring in customers more often and lead them to also buy more apparel and other products. (Source photos by Manami Yamada) 

TOKYO -- Muji operator Ryohin Keikaku plans to increase its lineup of food items, using 30% of sales space in its new stores opening this summer and onward to cater to increased demand amid the prolonged impact of COVID-19, Nikkei has learned.

The Japanese lifestyle brand plans to bake bread inside its stores, sell bento boxes of the day and stock locally sourced vegetables and fruits. It would also start selling new items of frozen food and drinks.

The company aims to open 50 such stores by August 2022. Prices would be set higher, at about 300 yen (nearly $3) for products that are normally sold at 100 or 200 yen in supermarkets. It would aim for good value through mass production while selecting environmentally friendly and high-quality products.

Food items currently account for about 10% of sales. The company aims to increase the percentage to 30% in 2030. The company hopes to attract more frequent visits per customer through offering more food products. A customer currently visits Muji one or two times a month on average. Food could lead to customers visiting every week.

More frequent visits could also increase purchases per customer, who would likely buy more apparel and other nonfood products.

Half of Muji's new stores would be in major supermarkets such as Ito-Yokado. Ryohin Keikaku plans to focus on rural areas rather than city centers.

Due to the novel coronavirus outbreak, more people are getting used to remote work and staying at home. Supermarkets are emerging as the winner in such lifestyle shifts while apparel stores and restaurants struggle.

Ryohin Keikaku's September-November sales in 2020 increased by 69% to 12.2 billion yen ($115 million) from the same period of the previous year, driven by 60% growth for food items. The company expects consumer trends to remain the same even after the pandemic ends.

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