Three years since entering the Canadian market in Toronto, Japanese clothing and household goods retailer MUJI says they will be opening two new stores in the Metro Vancouver region at the end of the year.
At a media event today in downtown Vancouver, MUJI Canada president Toru Akita told Daily Hive that the retailer will be opening two new large stores in the local market – a storefront location on Robson Street and another store at Metropolis at Metrotown shopping centre.
Both stores will open in late 2017 and be approximately 10,000 square feet, significantly larger than any of three stores open in Toronto which range between 5,000 to 6,000 square feet.
“When we opened our first store in Toronto, at that time nearly 80% of our customers already knew about MUJI and they were mainly Asian customers,” said Akita. “Now it is slightly changing with more people from outside Asian countries. Every time we open a store in Toronto, there are so many requests from people in Vancouver and Montreal.”
And they have listened, as MUJI’s first Canadian expansion outside of Toronto is set to be Vancouver.
The name MUJI, or known in full as Mujirushi Ryohin, originates from four Chinese characters and literally means ‘no brand’ and ‘good quality’.
The retailer already has a major presence across much of East Asia, with 400 stores within its home country of Japan and another 400 stores elsewhere, particularly in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Southeast Asia.
Having reached saturation in those markets, MUJI is now turning to North America for its next expansion given that the demand and interest has been proven. The Toronto stores were some of the company’s first testing grounds on the continent, and to date sales figures have been three times what they had first anticipated.
“We consider North America as the most important market to expand our business,” said Akita. “We see Canada as a very multicultural country, and we know that many customers are already in Canada and have been waiting for us for a very long time. We have been looking for some good location in Vancouver for a long time and are trying our best to open stores in the city.”
Akita adds that his company could potentially open more locations in the Metro Vancouver market if the first two stores perform well.
MUJI is occasionally compared with IKEA, but Akita says they have a very different brand concept that focuses on a wide variety of products such as garments, foods, furnitures, and stationary. They focus on making high-quality, originally designed products and retailing them at reasonable prices.
The opening of the Robson Street store will likely provide Robson Street west of Burrard Street with a much-needed foot traffic boost, in effect providing the retail strip with a major anchor. Vacancies and frequent changeovers have been an issue on Robson Street for a number of years, particularly one block further down.
“This landmark transaction underlines the continued vigor of Vancouver’s ‘Robson Street’ market,” said Martin Moriarty and Mario Negris with CBRE’s Urban Properties Group in a joint statement for Daily Hive.
“Long in the making, this deal will be a key contribution to Robson’s evolution and long-term vision. With MUJI joining other retail heavyweights Nike, Aritzia and Ladurée, we remain confident others will follow.”
In the meantime, until MUJI opens its first permanent stores in the region, fans can get a glimpse of what the retailer offers at its pop-up shop within the JAPANESE UNLAYERED exhibiton at the Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel in downtown Vancouver. The pop-up shop will be open from 11 am to 7 pm, from Friday, January 27 to Sunday, January 29, then Monday to Friday through Tuesday, February 28.
UNIQLO, another renowned Japanese retailer, is expected to officially announce its first Metro Vancouver locations later this year.