by Michelle Hespe
The 2019 gia Global Honoree Futako Tamagawa Tsutaya Electrics from Japan is part of a new wave of retailers that understand that to survive in this industry, you can no longer simply sell products. This company has further raised the bar, creating an enticing society for its customers.
Don’t be fooled by the name of the store – Futako Tamagawa Tsutaya Electrics – as this amazing, forward-thinking business is not just there to sell electrical goods. In fact, it sells things that are the complete antithesis of electrical goods, such as good old-fashioned books, and the store is more of a place to be rather than a place to buy things.
The overarching company, Tsutaya, was launched in 1983, and in 1985 the Culture Convenience Club Co (CCC) was launched as a marketing company relying on its database to offer the right products for a highly targeted demographic. Again, forward thinking was the name of the game for the founders, already before the ‘data is king’ era began.
In 2000 came Shibuya Tsutaya, a store famous worldwide for selling books, magazines, games, comics and DVDs/CDs at the ‘Shibuya Scramble’ (one of Tokyo’s busiest crossings). Later came the opening of a ‘lifestyle commercial facility’ called Daikanyama T-Site, which is a gigantic bookstore where customers can hang out and be a part of a community. The idea was immediately embraced by locals, as Tokyo is a very busy city and people have small places to live in, often crowded with other family members.
In 2015 Tsutaya Electrics store (located in Tokyo’s Futako Tamagawa neighborhood) opened its doors, promoting the idea of a cultural, luxurious, relaxing lifestyle – offering customers a world of design, art, books and seemingly endless possibilities to discover, test, reflect upon and buy.
As anyone who has been to the store will attest, it is an art, tech, home appliance and electrical goods store and environment unlike anything else in the world. The company strives to inspire its customers to buy lifestyle products perfectly tailored to suit their needs and wants, with advice from in-store concierges, who guide them through decision-making processes. This is an important element of Tsutaya Electrics, in an era when so many people make purchases online, it is refreshing to let people try out and experience products just like they would at home. The store also hosts events and daily demonstrations so that people can experiment with products while socializing and meeting other like-minded people.
“Selling things is the end result,” explains manager of Tsutaya Electrics, Yoshinori Osako.
“But what we do is focus the proposal of ‘How to live’ to customers living in the city. This goal does not change, and it never ends. Retailers struggle worldwide. I believe that stores with expertise and uniqueness, that are not convenient or cheap, have survived in this tough landscape. We are doing so well because we are not just selling products – we are promoting the idea of a great life.”
The over-arching company still continues to collect data to zero in on what its customers want. To do this, it has more than 67 million members using its T-Card – a loyalty card that earns holders’ points that is linked to over 990,374 stores across Japan. Customers’ purchasing data is gathered, the information is analyzed, and the company is thus aware of who its customers are and what they want. This information is then passed on to staff so that they can deliver an exceptional, highly targeted experience to customers.
“We like to keep our promises to our customers and give them what they want and need,” says Yoshinori Osako. “Our staff actually do things for the customer, not just listen to what the customer says. You have to relate to customers, in order to keep them happy and coming back. When the customers are pleased, then the team is achieving its goals. This also means that individual staff member’s personal skills are rising, and this is when they are the happiest, and when they shine. This creates a wonderful environment.”
Yoshinori Osako believes that the many varied areas created for visitors to relax in and enjoy at their own pace is one of the major reasons for customers returning. “The goal is to make people feel as though they are at home rather than in a store,” he explains. The idea behind this is that if you make people feel comfortable and at home, they are more likely to trust you, relax, and make purchases.
Taking things a step further, the interior spaces are dedicated to different parts of a person’s life, and specific lighting is used to create a particular feel in that area. For instance, the area for mothers to relax with babies has books on child-rearing, a change-room and warm, soothing lighting to calm the mother and child.
The store’s clever set-up also ensures that people don’t need to leave to do something else, such as buy something to eat, have a drink or entertain a child. For instance, there are bar and café areas where people can wait to have their devices fixed and family areas in the bookstore with areas catering to toddlers and older kids. There are 240 seats in the café, which can double-up as an events space and a place for talk shows, demonstrations, autograph signings and much more. The concierges circulate in these areas, ensuring that customers can ask questions about products or try them out.
When it came to entering gia, Yoshinori Osako and his team didn’t know that there was a competition in the world like it, and so they were surprised and delighted when the editor from a daily Japanese newspaper, Senken Shimbun, approached them, advising them to enter: “The evaluation criteria is solid, and it was very useful as a retailer to address the criteria, because it makes you look at every aspect of your business, and makes you think about how you can be even better. It is such an honor for us to be chosen as one of the best retailers in the world. We are all very happy and very proud, and it was so great sharing the news with all of our staff, because they make the business what it is today. We will continue to grow together.”
To learn more about Tsutaya Electrics, visit their website.
Sponsored and organized by The Inspired Home Show and the International Housewares Association (IHA), gia (IHA Global Innovation Awards) is the world’s leading awards program honoring overall excellence, business innovation and creative merchandising in homegoods retailing. For more information about the gia retail program, the co-sponsors, or participating in 2019-2020, contact Piritta Törrö. Additional information on gia is also available online at Housewares.org/Show/gia-Retail.