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Bringing Japan to BGC

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THE FIRST Mitsukoshi in the Philippines had its soft opening last Friday, bringing the first department store in all of Japan to the country.

Mitsukoshi Holdings Ltd. has its origins over 300 years ago in 1683 as a kimono fabrics store in Tokyo. According to a presentation by Akio Inuishi, Division Manager of the Overseas Real Estate Division of Isetan Mitsukoshi Holdings Ltd.’s Overseas Business Department, the store also introduced price tags to Japan.

The store was restructured in 1904 to become a department store, the first in Japan.

During a press tour in the Mitsukoshi BGC mall last Thursday, a Mitsukoshi lion statue, which is also found at the main store in Japan, was unveiled by its executives. Inspiration for the lion came from a 1905 trip to London by Osuke Hibi, the store’s first Senior Managing Director.

The mall’s Mitsukoshi identity is tethered by Mitsukoshi Beauty and Mitsukoshi Fresh, respectively, a beauty store showing off Japanese brands and a supermarket.

The supermarket is a special treat: it comes with a dedicated sushi and sashimi section, a cooking section where one can have their purchases prepared and eaten on the spot, among many international delicacies like Spanish jamon (ham), wine selections from France all the way to Chile, and a special section devoted to sake.

THE MITSUKOSHI NAMEThis is one of the few stores in Southeast Asia to bear the Mitsukoshi name, as Isetan Mitsukoshi usually sets up shop in Southeast Asian countries with the Isetan name. It has 28 overseas stores, including in Singapore, Malaysia, China, and the US; this one in the Philippines its 29th.

“It took eight years to finally plant the flag of Mistukoshi in our country. It started as a simple courtesy visit by the Nomura real estate executives back in 2014, that led to a dinner in BGC,” said Federal Land, Inc. Chair Alfred Ty in a speech on Nov. 17.

The mall itself is a result of a tripartite development between Federal Land, Nomura Real Estate Development Co., Ltd., and Isetan Mitsukoshi. The mall is built on the podium level of The Seasons Residences, a mixed-use development from the same partnership.

The mall, designed by Asao Tokolo — whose work was seen in the victory ceremony podiums during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics — shows a modified Japanese gateway structure which symbolizes Filipino-Japanese camaraderie, according to a release. Meanwhile, columns at the entrance hall have been covered with thread, taking 600 hours to make, the thread symbolizing a connection between the gods and men.

CUSTOMER SURVEYDuring the opening, Mitsukoshi BGC General Manager Morohoshi Mitsunori told BusinessWorld that market research for the tenants began as early as 2017. “We started a customer survey of Manila,” he said. “We went to the customers’ houses to see the inside of their refrigerators, the inside of their closets — something like that.”

Such visits led to tenants such as the country’s first Kinokuniya (a Japanese bookstore chain), opening in the mall with a partnership with local bookstore chain Fully Booked. According to a release, almost half of the retail space in the bookstore will be devoted to Japanese manga and Japanese books.

The mall has 16,950 sqm. of retail space, spread across four stories (including a basement level) with 120 tenants in total, with a 55% opening ratio. Mr. Mitsunori said that the mall plans to open completely by the first quarter of 2023.

“We’re trying to manage and collaborate with tenants so we can achieve the (opening) next year,” Momoko Umemura, Manager of Isetan Mitsukoshi’s Overseas Business Division, told BusinessWorld.

MARKET POTENTIAL“One of the reasons why we chose the Philippines to launch is the market potential for the business side,” Mr. Inuishi told BusinessWorld in an interview. “Comparing [it] to the other Southeast Asian countries, the Philippines has the most energetic growth in the market, population increase — it’s very attractive for a retail company.”

He also credits Federal Land and their efforts, saying, “Without Federal Land, especially Mr. Alfred (Ty) — he loves Japan, and he loves Mitsukoshi,” said Mr. Inuishi. “He contacted us. Without his existence and Federal Land’s existence, maybe the Philippines is out of our concern.”

Speaking about the difference between shopping in Mitsukoshi here and abroad, Mr. Inuishi said, “We don’t want to push our Japanese style to the Philippine market. In the past, we make mistakes as well.

“How do we mix? Sometimes 50-50, sometimes 70-30, sometimes 100 and 0. How do you make a balance?” he said of mixing Japanese and Filipino shopping style. — Joseph L. Garcia

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