URBAN RESEARCH has started “JAPAN MADE” projectas a local revitalization.
URBAN RESEARCH CO.,LTD. Promotion and Marketing Dept. Senior Manager Satoru Saito
Select shop URBAN RESEARCH has started “JAPAN MADE” project from September 2014 as a local revitalization. Started from Nagasaki, Kanazawa and Tohoku area and still expanding areas for this project. We interviewed the key person of this Mr. Satoru Saito to know how they engage with local community and further business goal.
JAPAN MADE project started from NY community
－ Regarding JAPAN MADE project, is this idea came up before or after deciding opening the store in Nagasaki?
Saito It was after. Nagasaki was a new place for us and we were opening several stores at that time so we thought we need something “new activity” for opening the stores in other areas for not being stereotypical. After Tohoku earthquake, several discussions of local revitalization came up internally and that was a trigger we have started thinking how we could collaborate with local community.
－ Were there any case studies for this project idea?
Saito A year before opening the store in Nagasaki, we have assigned business of FREEMANS SPORTING CLUB in Japan. Their store is in lower east side of NY and it has unique business style of restaurant, barber, and fashion. Also, their business is all done within 1 block community and that was very unique point from us at that time. In this business for example, they create one product by choosing particular person to sew within their block. From this business model, we have started thinking that it might better to consume business in a small local area rather than developing business larger so that every year they have constant order even though sales will not grow much. For Nagasaki store, we wanted to complete the business in the close distance so that we can continue the business there in a longer term.
Product not to be consumed
－ We understand your motivation toward JAPAN MADE though would like to know why you did not make JAPAN MADE product as a souvenir. For example, Nagasaki store has Kasutera (Japanese pound cake). Travelers outside from Nagasaki have expectation that they can find something different from Tokyo stores. To those people, Kasutera would be one of souvenir for them. Although to local people, Kasutera is not a new product. Honestly, we felt that different type of Kasutera will not be bought by outside of Nagasaki if we did not sell as a souvenir.
Saito It is only a seller point of view when we think “it is not a souvenir”. From people who buy, for example, they will buy this particular product because it is only sold in Tokyo. This product will be one of souvenir to them. It is fine to buy products as a souvenir in the end. My point is we don’t need to put “this product is popular as a souvenir” reputation towards product as a creative perspective. Since I am PR professional, I would like to control the information and communication as “there is a nice creative of products and URBAN RESEARCH is introducing it”.
－ Souvenir approach might not have stable selling or reputation, isn’t it?
Saito Yes, so I think the image of “URBAN RESEARCH Nagasaki has an original Kasutera” should not be the strongest image. I expect that customers just go into the store without knowing the difference of Tokyo store and feel Nagasaki store has something different from Tokyo. It is difficult in our business but I think it will last longer if we have interesting products or adding humor to an existing service/product.
Philosophy inherit from FREITAG
－When you started “non-advertising” approach?
Saito We have told from founder of FREITAG, Fraitag brothers, not to advertise or promote when we started handling this brand in Japan. They told us “do not advertise in magazine because then the brand will be not interested to consumers and will not be needed.” Rather than that, they asked us please spread to your friends if this brand is really good. Coolness of simple but not simple is the philosophy of Switzerland. Founders told us if we could understand this philosophy then they want to have business with us. Since then our business relation has continued more than ten years.
－Now, the brand is very popular.
Saito The designs are different each item. When customer contact for this brand particular design, we only can say “you need to come to store and see it.” It might be easier for this type of product to do online shop and showing each design images which sales will be better in this ways. However, there will be peak sales with online shop sales but it will go down afterwards.
－ Which means, it could be same situation with local community business?
Saito Not to be like that, we need to do it simply. JAPAN MADE project has started from 3 or 4 products and our strategy is to continue creating new products when we open new stores. Once we have peak popularity now, we might miss the next opportunity. That is why we consider “too much advertising” approach is not one of way to continue this type of business in long term from PR perspective.
Relationship with community as a company
－ It is very interesting that the organization like URBAN RESEARCH has been collaborating with local communities. We can imagine that this is not easy and it is very challenging project.
Saito We don’t feel this project is busy. For example, we want to do 10 projects with 10 people but only 3 projects can be on time when opening the stores. We will accept that. The business we have been doing was to finish 7 projects within tight timeline. I think once we control local business people’s pace, it will be more “souvenir” type project. We decided this project is not like that so we never say “it needs to be done!”
－ This kind of business may influence other business values. For example with T-shirts, it has been increased that producers who only create certain amount of T-shirts with each producers’ way. This means we only could get certain amount of products within exclusive contracts.
Saito Yes, the store sales itself has been decreased a little but total sales has not changed because online sales has no labor cost. Although, we need at least 2 people in local to have face to face work in order to collaborate with local community. Additionally, staff from tenant is also important. Nagasaki store is in Amusa Plaza and the staff here is also positive to this project. When we are busy and could not contact to them, they always contact us and propose ideas such as local festivals. Thus, I strongly feel this collaboration makes the structure of this entire local community project.