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Tokyo's Ginza Six can't get window shoppers to open wallets

Upscale shopping destination leaves some visitors feeling out of place

Three months have passed since Ginza Six opened in Tokyo's upscale Ginza district.

TOKYO -- It's been three months since Ginza Six debuted to much hoopla in one of Tokyo's glitziest districts. Before it opened, the multi-use development created anticipation by hailing the 241 luxury and other boutiques it was putting under its roof. The big building itself even drew interest.

But the place doesn't seem to be leaving much of an impression.

"I ended up just window-shopping" is an oft-repeated summation of the Ginza Six experience.

The Nikkei asked 100 visitors how they spent their time at Ginza Six and to rate it on a scale of 1 to 5.

The overall rating was 3.5, a little better than average and not too impressive considering how much hype the place has generated.

Let's first hear from people who thought highly of Ginza Six. A 61-year-old Tokyo company employee gave the place a 5. "It gives you the opportunity to learn about the latest fashion trends," he said, "even if you don't find things you want to buy."

A 26-year-old female company employee had similar thoughts. "There are many high-fashion brands here," she said, "so if you are a fashion buff, window-shopping here is great fun."

These two apparently liked Ginza Six for what it is meant to be: A place for browsing luxury brands like Dior and Fendi.

As far as how much people actually spent, Ginza Six does not appear to be doing great: 59 respondents said they spent money. This means about 40% only browsed.

Among those who bought something, the average amount they spent came to 11,277 yen ($100.61). Some 60% of this subset spent less than 5,000 yen, which seems like a meager sum for a new landmark in Ginza, long known for its tony boulevards.

But get a load of this: 18 respondents from various age brackets complained that prices are too high.

"Most of the shops are so luxurious they make me wonder whether I belong," said a 48-year-old female company employee from Kumamoto Prefecture.

A 30-year-old female company employee had a comparable experience. "It made me feel like it's not for ordinary people like me," she told us.

Ginza Six has been touting the exclusivity of its offerings. Many of the big-name, high-end boutiques offer goods not sold anywhere else. Still, making visitors feel as though they somehow don't belong certainly is not what the operator intends.

This food floor in one of Ginza Six's basements has proven to be a big draw.

Difficulty getting around

Twenty-four respondents said they found Ginza Six difficult to navigate. One survey-taker even said it was difficult to tell what floors the elevator was stopping at. Other complaints included confusing floor maps and a mazelike complexity of the shopping floors.

Fashion is Ginza Six's main attraction. But visitors also apparently go with an appetite. Buying specialty foods and dining were popular activities among the 59 respondents who said they spent money during their expedition.

Of them, 24 said they bought food items and 19 said they dined. Over 70% of the subset said they spent money on eating.

Six of the respondents rhapsodized about the Kanze Noh Theater in the third basement. It is the main theater of the biggest school for the Japanese theatrical art. It had moved away from Ginza 150 years ago.

"It made me say, 'Whoa, I never expected anything like this in Ginza!'" said a 40-year-old housewife.

According to the survey, the atrium's decorative artwork by artist Yayoi Kusama is a popular attraction. All the visitors taking pictures in the area also attest to this.

Six fashion labels have ground floor premises that face streets; some respondents said they made purchases on this floor. A 28-year-old woman said she bought a 93,000 yen pair of shoes at the Valentino shop.

A 42-year-old company employee said Ginza Six's "strength is that it has shops that you find only here and that the shops have products available exclusively here." She was holding a Dior bag that cost 500,000 yen.

Still, only 10 respondents made fashion-related purchases.

Tenant sales mixed

The Ginza Matsuzakaya department store used to occupy the site that now hosts Ginza Six -- and a lot of retail industry types are watching to see if a traditional department store operator can pivot away from its old business model.

Before the old store came down, Ginza Matsuzakaya's annual sales were around 10 billion yen.

J. Front Retailing, which operated the department store, is now an indirect shareholder of Ginza Six Retail Management through subsidiary Daimaru Matsuzakaya Department Stores.

Ginza Six expects to attract 20 million visitors in its first year and ring up sales of 60 billion yen. Our survey results give the impression that these may be lofty goals. Soichiro Kuwajima, president of Ginza Six Retail Management, however, said operating figures "have come out largely in line with our plans."

Kuwajima said 56% of visitors to outlets operated by Daimaru Matsuzakaya Department Stores make purchases and that Ginza Six comes in slightly under this. This means fewer visitors spend money at Ginza Six than indicated by our survey.

In addition, Kuwajima said, the less than 5,000 yen that some of our survey-takers spent is "just about the same as at other department stores."

We also wondered whether Ginza Six's sales are high enough considering it sits in the heart of one of Tokyo's high-rent districts. So we asked its tenants. Representatives of European fashion houses, which are typically tight-lipped, replied along the lines of, "Our sales remain brisk." Or, "Our sales are largely in line with our target."

Not much hoopla there.

Satoshi Sumiyoshi, the senior managing director of Yagi Tsusho, which operates the Mackintosh and four other big-brand boutiques in Ginza Six, said sales "are at targeted levels, even for the worst-performing store."

A spokesperson for Yokohama's Star Jewelry said many customers are making batch purchases, spending from 100,000 yen to 900,000 yen in one go, at its SJX brand boutique in Ginza Six. Furthermore, the representative said, sales in May and June exceeded their targets by 50%.

About 20% of the visitors to the Ginza Six SJX store are foreign tourists, and the spokesperson said they are catered to by foreign nationals on staff.

By contrast, one shop dealing in bags and shoes seems to be struggling; its sales are languishing at about half the target levels, a spokesperson said.

A representative of yet another tenant complained, "We have high-priced limited-edition products in the store, but they aren't selling at all."

A spokesperson for Beams, a leading operator of "select shops" that sell curated ranges from multiple brands, said sales at Beams House Women at Ginza Six are a little below the company's target. But, the representative said, "this is part of what we had expected because it is a new shop format and thus not much known yet to a larger audience."


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