Kitsch paradise: Isetan-Mitsukoshi targets young in new Harajuku Alta and online

Apr 15

Isetan-Mitsukoshi’s spate of innovations in the last year has included most segments and most areas of Japanese life but there was one that seemed out of reach until now: the teen market. Last month it unveiled the latest iteration of its Alta shopping building in Harajuku, a festival of pink that may turn into a national chain.

Isetan-Mitsukoshi opened a mini mall in Takeshita Dori last month targeting the teenage market and other lovers of everything pink and kitsch. Called Harajuku Alta, it adds to the group’s other Alta buildings in Shinjuku, Ikebukuro and Niigata.

The 1,750 sqm Harajuku Alta was project managed by Mitsui Real Estate but is operated by Isetan-Mitsukoshi subsidiary MI Property Design, which also manages the other Alta SCs.

Alta Harajuku packs 19 tenants into the small building, ranging from footwear to snacks, although the top half of the four floor building is largely dedicated to a Disney store and World Project Kawaii, a cafe. Other tenants include gift shop Choco Choco by Swimmer, jewellery store Pink Lemon Tree, and accessories chains L.Chance and Stone Market. Any surface within the SC that isn’t pink looks like an aberration.

Isetan-Mitsukoshi hopes the new building will be the beginning of a revival for the Alta SC brand, possibly leading to expansion of the chain across Japan as the department store’s principle means of capturing some of the spend of the younger segment, in particular the pop culture market. There is also talk of taking the concept overseas given the popularity of Japanese pop culture in Asia – possibly as a themed area within Isetan stores.

The revival of Alta is part of a wider programme of diversification by the department store group into new formats and segments, including MI Plaza for the senior market, a luxury select shop business, and new service-based subsidiaries in travel, health clinics and weddings.

Isetan-Mitsukoshi ties with blogging platform to reach young customers

In a further quest to reach into the younger market, Isetan-Mitsukoshi has formed a tie up with Cyberagent’s popular blogging and social networking site, Ameba. It will select the best from among the 17,000 official bloggers on Ameba to choose their favourite products from within Isetan’s ranges, and these will be marketed on pages within the Ameba platform, although the click through for purchase will be to Isetan’s online store.

The first blogger to be selected was Ai Takahashi, a 19 year old fashion model and blogger ( Takahashi’s ‘blog’ promotes apparel, accessories, jewellery, home and even food selected from Isetan’s online store. In effect, it is a celebrity endorsed ‘blog shop’, leveraging consumers’ love for young, cute, highly paid ‘talento’.

The collaboration will be a neat way for Isetan to get its online offerings in front of new audiences. The power of celebrity endorsements is clear, and their influence on young consumers increasingly outweighs other purchasing drivers. Ai Takahashi’s site, for example, is one of the top ranked on Ameba, with a large following among teenagers and women in their early 20s.

Isetan and Cyberagent plan to open other blogging shops in categories such as baby & kids, food, interiors and even pet goods.

Ameba has a series of such collaborations with other brands and retailers, selling through its own e-commerce platform (, which currently lists 254 ‘celebrity endorsed’ blog shops.