Following the renovation of the 3rd Mode floor completed last Dec. 5th, other floors of Isetan Shinjuku are currently being renovated in preparation for its grand re-opening this Mar. 6th. I interviewed the store manager Yoji Naka regarding this topic. I, being one of Isetan’s many customers was very interested to hear Mr. Naka’s thoughts.

-Concerns about whether it was too much

I have been carrying out many interviews regarding Isetan Shinjuku but this is the first time I met the store manager Mr. Naka. I was nervous when I began the interview but was soon pulled into the interesting topics that Mr. Naka brought forth so eloquently. And with that my understanding of Isetan Shinjuku greatly deepened.

The biggest characteristic of the remodeling of the 3rd Mode floor was the image of the interior floor space. Designer Yasumichi Morita handled the revamping of the entire floor. Mr. Naka says, “At first I was a bit worried that we had overdone it. Since the lighting and layout were intentionally differentiated, I was concerned that our customers would feel dizzy when walking on the floor”.

Fortunately these concerns were unnecessary in the end as most people favored the re-modeled floor. Being used to the old layout, I did get a bit lost on the new floor but soon found a liking to the bright and varied lighting and positive stir coming from the selling space.

“I think the current trend does not necessarily call for unification in design. The overall harmony created by unbalance was our objective”, continues Mr. Naka. Aside from systematically creating a “park (promotional event space)” on each floor, the vertical axis design was not implemented.

Looking back to 2003, a layout unifying various brands in the same space with a floor theme was created in Men’s Building of Isetan Shinjuku. At the time, this layout became a hot topic as people saw this as going beyond the standard framework of department stores. This layout concept was soon reflected onto others such as the groceries, accessories and women’s apparel floors. This trend was then followed by other department stores and became a new standard.

-Harmonization of Unbalance

The ongoing renovation challenges the current standard and seeks harmonization of unbalance. Instead of unifying the floor with a theme or creating a hard written rule for each selling space, the concept is to bring out the unique identities of each space. “In the world of mode, unexpected and new situations come up all the time. Our store specializes in selling mode”, says Mr. Naka.

I could not agree with Mr. Naka more. For women anyway, it is difficult to understand logic and theories. We prefer sensation and real experiences. We cannot find charm in something that is too organized. The most important thing is whether the item is attractive or not.

In this sense, the renovated selling space is interesting. Joy to look around to find what is there seems to be coming back to Isetan Shinjuku store. It cannot be realized without good and nice floor space, merchandise, sales people and everything else. To label the store as “specializes in selling mode”, the store has to send messages that it will be sure to make customers excited and thrilled. To make a store, a living creature, I would say, dynamic and attractive, the employees have to make untiring efforts of maintenance and development.

-Lead customers from the storefront to the selling space

“The area of the storefront of women’s stores was decreased by 8% and the number of SKU (Stock keeping unit) was decreased by 10% or more than that. It is not a problem, because SKU themselves are increasing though stores actually don’t have the merchandise. ”, says Mr. Naka. Usually the expansion of selling space is thought to be a better idea for department stores, but I felt the reduction of selling space was somehow innovative listening to his comment. He focuses on: immediately delivering the merchandise after finding it in storage, or ordering the merchandise after checking that the stock is unavailable at the store. To achieve this, comfortable sofas or private rooms are to be installed for customers everywhere in the selling space so that customers can have a place to select “their own fashion” while feeling at home.

The important thing is to provide heartfelt hospitality. How the store invites customers into the selling space depends on the skill of sales people. I would like to support Isetan’s determination to take on the challenge. When it is realized, I believe that Isetan will recapture the identity of the department store. As one of Isetan’s fans, I want it to be like that.