Isetan opens first Salone, plans 10 stores by 2018

May 15

Small format retailing is Isetan-Mitsukoshi’s way out of the strictures of the department store market. Until now its boutiques have been in airports and outlet malls. Last month it opened Isetan Salone, the first in a chain of at least 10 upscale select shops. It also opened more middle market stores in Osaka that could morph into competitors for the likes of Beams and United Arrows. 

Isetan-Mitsukoshi opened its first city centre select shop store last month in Tokyo Midtown. Called Isetan Salone, the 900 sqm store is a truly upscale temple of fashion squarely targeting the most affluent end of the Tokyo market, tourists included.

In the last three years, Isetan-Mitsukoshi has opened small format stores in airports, as well as a chain of MI Plaza stores targeting seniors, but Isetan Salone is the first of what is expected to be a small chain of high end select shops. The nearest competitors are stores like Estnation and Restir.

Isetan Salone is in essence a distillation of the best that Isetan Shinjuku currently has to offer. The street level is devoted to jewellery, watches, bags and other accessories, along with a promotion area, and the second floor offers apparel, accessories, shoes, cosmetics and fragrances. Around 90 brands are on sale with about 1,500 SKUs. There are some branded corners, notably for Valentino and Fendi in bags and Frank Muller in watches. The shoes area, with layered wood displays bringing samples within easy reach of customers, stocks 30 brands. Also on offer are a limited range of Isetan Salone branded accessories such as shopping bags and fans.

The store is minimalist to a fault, with sparse racks of clothing alongside tables dotted with the odd accessory, a display style aimed at emphasising the store’s highly edited selection of choice merchandise. As well as product, Isetan has introduced a suitably high level of service, with counselling for four cosmetics brands within a private ‘cabin room’ as well as semi-self service for the rest, and a VIP salon with a fitting room bigger than many Tokyo apartments – the standard fitting rooms aren’t much smaller.

Isetan-Mitsukoshi plans around 10 Isetan Salone stores within the next three years. These will vary in size between 1,000-5,000 sqm. The only other that has been confirmed is a 3,000 sqm store planned for Mitsubishi Estate’s station development in Nagoya that’s due to open in March 2016. Although the first Isetan Salone focuses almost entirely on fashion, Isetan-Mitsukoshi says this was necessary due to space limitations. Larger stores such as that in Nagoya will incorporate other selected merchandise from Isetan Shinjuku, particularly home fashion and household goods.

Last month Isetan-Mitsukoshi also opened a series of boutiques within the new extension of Lucua in Osaka Station. These are also select shops but aimed at the middle market in stations and suburban SCs, with the common branding of a lower case ‘i’ in Isetan (isetan Men’s Style, isetan Closet, isetan Shoes & Bags and so on). Some of these are test stores for future chains, particularly isetan Shoes & Bags and isetan Closet, which will target the main select shop competitors such as Beams, United Arrows and Baycrews.