MUJI has finally opened its much-anticipated flagship store in downtown Vancouver.
The Japanese clothing and household goods retailer initially planned on opening the Robson Street store before the Metropolis at Metrotown shopping mall location.
However, after the incredible performance of its pop-up shop at the Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel in early-2017, it realized it had to go back to the drawing board as Vancouver was deserving of a larger flagship.
And as a result, the Canadian flagship store at 1125 Robson Street is 14,507 sq. ft. – about twice the size of the 7,770-sq-ft Metrotown store that opened in late-August, and close to three times the size of any of the company’s four stores in Greater Toronto.
The Robson Street store is the largest MUJI store outside of Asia; comparatively, MUJI’s flagship store on New York City’s famed Fifth Avenue is smaller at just under 12,000 sq. ft.
The performance of the Metrotown store also reaffirmed MUJI Canada CEO Toru Akita’s expectations for the Metro Vancouver market. Over 1,600 people lined up outside the store on its opening day, with the line snaking outside the mall, and within the first two weeks the Metrotown store had sold more product than all of the Toronto stores combined.
“After the success of the Metrotown store, I decided to accelerate the speed of the opening of the stores in British Columbia,” Akita told Daily Hive in an interview. “The Metrotown store opening was the biggest store opening in the Canada and United States markets. We never experienced that before.”
Akita said that beyond Metrotown and Robson, MUJI is interested in opening more stores in Metro Vancouver, but he was unable to provide possible locations at this time. He also stated the company had begun exploring its expansion into markets in other Canadian provinces.
The Metrotown location’s performance has continued to exceed expectations. In fact, over the last month, the Metrotown store was the top performing location in the country.
Satoru Matsuzaki, President of Mujirushi Ryohin, the international umbrella operating company of MUJI, also echoed Akita on the region’s market interest: “I have the confidence that MUJI will be successful in Vancouver, therefore we need a big size store here [on Robson].”
The enormous size of the Robson Street flagship, which employs 150 people, was accomplished by taking over and merging the retail spaces formerly held by Gap and Below The Belt – a multi-storey high atrium space with a glass ceiling.
“This is a one-of-a-kind building,” said Akita. “The first time I saw the sunlight, I knew that we had to utilize the natural sunlight. We prepared a relaxing environment for the customer so that they make better choices.”
MUJI contracted Unison Construction Management Ltd., a Vancouver-based interior design company, to execute the plans for the space within a tight timeline.
“MUJI and their team are obviously very experienced in rolling out stores all over the world and it was an honour to work with them on their North American flagship store,” said Ryan Sayer, President and CEO of Unison, adding that “MUJI Robson is an amazing addition to our portfolio of work.”
“They have a strong brand image and it was nice to work with a client whose attention to detail matches our own. One new challenge for us was scheduling weekly conference calls that worked for MUJI stakeholders in Japan, Europe, and locally.”
Ample wood is used in the store’s interior to create a warm atmosphere, and giant logs positioned on the floor double as bench seating.
With such a sprawling floor area, the Robson Street store carries over 4,500 products, such as: clothing for men, women, and kids; shoes; bags; tablewares and kitchenwares; notebooks; stationery such as pens; flexible storage options; skincare; diffusers; bedding; and bathroom and cleaning essentials.
But what sets this store apart from most MUJI locations are the unique goods and services not available at any other Canadian store.
The store has its own coffee shop – MUJI Coffee Counter – in partnership with Vancouver-based Ethical Bean Coffee.
Various forms of seating, from round tables made out of logs to clusters of giant bean bags, provide customers with space to relax, sip their coffee, socialize, or even read a book from the store’s selection of hand-picked literature.
Other unique offerings include potted plants, aluminum travel suitcases, and extensive bone china series. The selection of candy and snacks at MUJI Robson is also much larger than the Metrotown location.
Following other global flagship stores, the Robson location has the MUJI Labo Collection, which is a laboratory apparel concept to experiment with new styles, materials, and manufacturing processes.
Additionally, a customization service for embroidery, stamps, gift wrapping, and label printing called ‘MUJI Yourself’ is a Canadian first. A wide selection of labels and personalization options allows shoppers to customize MUJI products, such as stationery and storage.
And an Aroma Bar offers the ability to create a customized fragrance blend by choosing from more than 40 essential oils.
MUJI Robson opens to the public on Saturday, December 2 at 10 am.