It is telling when Japan’s once most exclusive department store chain lends its name to a shop in a highway service area. Not a sign of decline, but rather a testament to Isetan-Mitsukoshi’s renewed vigour, and its determination to bring its products to its customers wherever they are.
Isetan-Mitsukoshi’s ambitions to expand its smaller store formats continue with the slightly surprising move to open stores in highway service areas. While not unprecedented given Beams and United Arrows’ rollout of highway service stores in recent years, the move appears incongruous for such a high end retailer, especially given that it’s early days for Isetan-Mitsukoshi’s entirely new specialty formats.
The first MI Plaza store opened in Expasa Fujikawa service area on the Tomei Expressway in December, with a further store planned for Neopasa Shimizu on the Shin-Tomei Expressway in the Spring. The MI Plaza brand is targeted at upper middle aged and senior consumers, a segment that passes through these locations in large numbers – and service areas indeed offer huge potential for high footfall and expanded brand awareness. The stores will offer a wide range of o-miyage (souvenirs) in addition to a selection from its developing range of senior targeted fashion and lifestyle merchandise.
Given the limitations on expanding large scale stores and the lack of demand for full-line department stores, highway service area locations demonstrate Isetan-Mitsukoshi’s aim to be available to consumers everywhere and build on existing stores in airports, shopping centres, and station buildings.
It already has 87 stores in total, more than any other department store, and has plans for 180 by 2018.
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