Right: Mr. Shu Matsuhashi, Store Manager of MUJI Tokyo Ariake  Left: Mr. Takeshi Akiyoshi, Deputy Manager of MUJI Tokyo Ariake 

Mr. Shu Matsuhashi, Store Manager of MUJI Tokyo Ariake/Mr. Takeshi Akiyoshi, Deputy Manager of MUJI Tokyo Ariake

On Thursday, December 3, MUJI Tokyo Ariake opened with the largest sales floor space in the Kanto area. The store offers eight new products and services that go beyond the traditional concept of department stores and support all aspects of everyday life. Although this store opened in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, which we did not anticipate at first, we have received delightful responses from neighborhood residents and customers. In this month’s MUJI People, we spoke with Mr. Matsuhashi, the manager of the MUJI Tokyo Ariake, and Mr. Akiyoshi, the deputy store manager.

■About MUJI Tokyo Ariake
 The store concept is to “sell the space.” The idea of a simple, pleasant life is not just about comfortable rooms, but is also closely linked to the living environment and urban development. MUJI Tokyo Ariake provides spaces that capture the “24 hours of daily life” – from spoons to homes, from workplaces to the town community, from one’s own living activities presented in living scenes to interior consultation, storage, and cleaning assistance services, etc. Under the theme of “Life Support” “Home Building” and “Community Development,” this store wishes to truly serve the daily lives of the local residents and solve the problems and issues they are facing in terms of “living spaces.”

■Things We Noticed towards the Opening of MUJI Tokyo Ariake
It was not easy to build a relationship of trust and coordination when it involved a large number of parties; as a single store, we cooperated with other departments, looked for business partners, estimated economic conditions and created various schemes in order to develop new products related to living spaces and start new services such as home-renovation and B2B businesses. In addition, I worked closely with the deputy store manager and five department managers to address the issues of how to improve the quality of our services in the event of COVID-19, and how MUJI can truly serve the customers in such an era.
 Through this experience, I was convinced that “it is very important to understand and clarify the meaning and significance of what we want to do. Think about what this will lead to in the future for the store, the company, and the world, set goals, and then consider and adjust the methodology and processes from a managerial point of view. Then, think about how to communicate the context and background at the store or through the internet. These actions and thoughts are quite essential.” Though we are still in the midst of developing services and conducting activities, we will continue to keep in mind the consciousness of individual store management, and all of our staff will strive to serve the local customers and community.

■Connection with the Local Community
 We have been holding roundtable discussions and observations with local residents for about a year in order to gather opinions and learn about local residents' real problems and needs, their tastes and values concerning living environment, and the actual conditions of the interior of neighboring houses and facilities. Some of the planned events could not be carried out due to the impact of COVID-19, but we switched to a remote communication mode, and conducted questionnaire surveys to understand the actual condition of peoples’ daily living. We have also coordinated with local companies (final waste disposal companies) and the government (Koto Ward) to build a cooperative system with “people who know the local community well.”
 Through this series of activities, we discovered and noticed a variety of things, and once again, I realized the importance of the Three Reality Principles (go to the site, make a direct observation, and determine the facts). I always tell our staff that “common sense means that you always need to put yourself in the position of an observer,” and also remind myself of this. Instead of saying “usually it is in this way” or “normally it would like this,” we need to take actions, observe with our own eyes, communicate and talk with people, and touch with our own hands…I believe that ideas and confidence generated by actually taking actions will become the strongest weapons.

■Customer Response after Opening
 Since we opened the store in a time of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have taken every possible measure to prevent infection, and the opening of the store was well-received by the local customers. I believe that the space concept and VMD design for each floor (clothing, food, and housing) are working very well so that everyone, from adults to children, can spend a pleasant time in the store.
 For our new initiatives of collecting used clothes and spared foods items – environmentally friendly initiatives that we cooperate with the government – we received high level of support from customers and the collection rate was very high; the customers’ responses surpassed our expectations. Many customers commented that with MUJI's initiatives, they felt more concerned with these environmental issues, and we also received a hand-written letter of this kind from a customer. I strongly feel that the level of environmental awareness is quite high among our customers.

■Future Goals
 Mr. Matsuhashi: I want to create a store where everyone would look up for higher targets, puff up their chests with pride, work in full motivation as a player rather than a worker, and state their own opinion of “I want to do this or that” to truly get involved in store operation. In this way, we could feel the meaning and motivation of working at MUJI. In order to create such a store, I wish to reinforce the comprehensive strength based on the motto of “generate ideas, cultivate a sense of beauty, and take actions.”

Mr. Akiyoshi: About 80% of our colleagues in MUJI Tokyo Ariake are new staff members. In the next fiscal year, we will work to create an environment and system in which all staff can improve his/her current skills and stance, and carry out his/her duties for the next step. People are essential for stores, stores are essential for communities, and communities are essential for people. My goal now is to make the local communities where we work a better place by working together with my colleagues.