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Foreign Brands Establish Presence in Upscale District (February 9, 2005)

The Chanel Ginza Building (Jiji)
The rush of foreign name-brand outlets opening up stores in Japan is continuing. In Tokyo's Ginza district, where such retail shops were once limited mainly to the quiet, tree-lined streets away from the main thoroughfares, more and more foreign luxury brands are opening up large outlets along the heavily trafficked avenues, and there are plans for still more of these shops, which are gradually forming a new look for this upscale shopping district.

Setting up Shop on the Main Avenues
Chuo-dori is a major boulevard that runs north-south for about 1.1 kilometers (0.7 mile) through Ginza. Chanel KK purchased a plot of land on this thoroughfare from supermarket chain Daiei in Ginza for ¥17.1 billion ($171 million at ¥100 to the dollar). It used the land to build its flagship store in the ten-story Chanel Ginza Building, which opened for business in December 2004. Its glass exterior, lined with light-emitting diodes that illuminate the night sky, is sometimes used as a type of giant video screen to display images of fashion shows and other events. The first through third floors of the building comprise the largest sales area of any fashion boutique in the world. On the fourth floor is a multipurpose hall, which regularly hosts performances by up-and-coming musicians.

On the tenth floor is Beige Tokyo, a gourmet restaurant that is a collaboration between Chanel KK and renowned French chef Alain Ducasse. Ducasse operates three-star restaurants in Paris and Milan, so the "six stars" he possesses mark him as one of the world's leading chefs. Speaking of the world's first pairing of a luxury brand and a top chef, Ducasse says confidently, "I trust the palate of the Japanese, which has developed within a rich culinary tradition."

On the day of the grand opening, eager shoppers began lining the block outside the store in the early hours in the hope of purchasing designer items from the "Ephemere de Ginza" product line, which was exclusive to the store. With so many customers waiting outside, the opening, scheduled for 11:00 a.m., was moved forward nearly one hour. More than 200 people filed into the store as soon as the doors were opened, and the crowds were so large that staff had to limit the number of people in the shop at any given time.

On the other side of the street, Louis Vuitton and Cartier had already set up shop on land once occupied by banks. Tiffany also recently purchased the building that houses its Ginza store, which opened in 1996, and the land on which it stands for ¥16.5 billion ($165 million). The Ginza 4-Chome crossing - the intersection of Chuo-dori and Harumi-dori - is where Christian Dior, Hermes, and Coach have set up shop, meanwhile. And Gucci plans to open a brand-new building there in late 2006.

Land Left by Banks Seen as Key
Private-sector analysts agree on the reasons behind the recent influx of foreign name-brand outlets to Ginza. Land prices are continuing to fall, and the investment environment has improved recently. With banks closing and consolidating, the vacant land once occupied by their branches represents a prime investment opportunity. Because Ginza is such a prestigious district, setting up shop there allows these brands to maintain and improve their prestige, and they can also hope for high profits.

According to data from Teikoku Databank, the 42 Japanese companies selling foreign brand-name goods registered corporate income of ¥120.5 billion ($1.2 billion) in fiscal 2003 (April 2003 to March 2004). This is an increase of roughly 250% since such records began to be kept in 1993 and is a record figure. The leader, Louis Vuitton Japan, ranked 107th among all corporations in Japan in terms of corporate income, putting it on a par with firms like Yahoo Japan Corporation and Citibank N. A. and marking it as a major player in the Japanese business world.

Local merchants in the Ginza district are taking these developments in stride. While some are concerned that the area will become overly identified with brand-name goods, most merchants are positive about the change and expect the new shops to tie in with the area's revitalization. With the prevalence of foreign luxury items on the rise, it remains to be seen what face Ginza will present to the world in the future.

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Copyright (c) 2005 Web Japan. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.

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