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Bricks-and-mortar retail scene climbs to new levels to attract consumers

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By: Debbie Howard

Retailers of all types are having to work harder to attract and hold consumers’ attention in the “real” versus “virtual” worlds, as consumers of all ages become increasingly engaged with all things digital.

But several recent retail concepts in Tokyo show the emergence of a wave of creative and architecturally-pleasing shopping environments seeking to appeal to and engage with consumers in new and different ways. These include smaller-scale, specialty-oriented “retail villages” with a focus on environment and art, as well as larger-scale commercial complexes that aim to deliver high-end shopping, dining, culture and entertainment catering to a highly-segmented audience.

Opened in November 2011, Yoyogi Village is an urban retreat with an eco-conscious vibe. Brainchild of music mogul Takeshi Kobayashi (producer of rock band Mr. Children), the “retail village” is comprised of bars, restaurants, art galleries, spas and retail shops. Its Music Bar’s selection is overseen by Kobayashi and hip DJ/producer Shinichi Osawa.

The village was designed by the Wonderwall architectural group, along with landscape designer Seijun Nishihata and others. One of the most spectacular points about Yoyogi Village is the “Living Wall” that Nishihata-san installed in the lounge of restaurant/bar Code Kurkku.

In December 2011, the second of these new retail concept developments appeared: Daikanyama T-Site, operated by Culture, Convenience Club (CCC), the parent company of media rental giant Tsutaya. Although its physical size is huge at 12,000 sq meters and 3 buildings, the ‘library-in-a-forest’ design concept created by Tokyo-based British architects Klein Dytham Architects makes it work. In an interesting twist of “old” and “new” media, the hybrid space combines a contemporary library, and carefully assembled collection of hobby and lifestyle shops, including a bar, café, camera and even a bicycle shop.

The entire space seeks to and succeeds in blending print and analogue media with digital, and using them both to create a complementary and enhanced experience for visitors, many of whom by design are affluent and aged 50 or over.

Next, in mid-to late-April Tokyu Corporation launched two new developments that illustrate both the specialty and large-scale ends of the spectrum.

The Tokyu Plaza Omotesando Harajuku (commonly referred to as “Omohara”) aims to provide an enhanced shopping experience that will attract even those who might otherwise be tempted to shop online. With its emphasis on meeting places and greenery in its public spaces, Omohara is quickly becoming a preferred place for Harajuku fashionistas to meet.

Opened in mid-April, the facility features over 20 retailers, including international brands such as Tommy Hilfiger and American Eagle Outfitters and smaller domestic brands such as Tokyo’s Tokyo.

As with many of these new retail concepts, architecture and design play an important role in creating just the right atmosphere. In the Omohara’s case, award-winning architect Hiroshi Nakamura did the honors.

On the large-scale end of the spectrum, Tokyu’s spanking new Shibuya Hikarie opened just before Golden Week, and at 34 stories tall, towers above most of the area. This commercial complex aims to lead a renaissance in Shibuya by attracting “older affluent consumers — particularly older career women” with a menu of high-end shopping, dining, culture and entertainment. The complex is home to over 200 tenants, including retailers, a gallery space, a 2,000-seat theatre, and a 2,000 sm hall for art exhibitions and events.

Could Tokyo’s retail landscape be on an evolutionary roll? All four of these recent market entrants offer differentiated experiences that are highly immersive and well-polished, via a dynamic mix of shopping, leisure, cultural and culinary elements — a new and vibrant approach to wowing consumers.

Debbie Howard is Chairman of CarterJMRN KK, and President Emeritus of the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan. She is also a Visiting Professor of marketing at Sophia University.

Originally Published in Nikkei Weekly, 21st May 2012

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By CarterJMRN on May 21, 2012.

Exported from Medium on August 21, 2018.