This week, as shoppers crowded into the shopping districts of Omotesandō, Ginza and Shibuya, a distinctive quirk of Japanese retail underscored once again why the country remains unsurpassed in terms of its level of customer service. As sales assistants packed up purchases in shopping bags, they also carefully wrapped these bags in layers of clear film to protect them from the incessant rain that has kept Tokyo very wet this week.
There are, of course, enough sales associates to stay with you as you shop, attend to your every need and carefully assist you as you weigh your purchasing decisions — without pressure or impatience. Much of this is because Japanese customers are so demanding. I saw one gentleman customer inspecting a pair of cufflinks like one would inspect an old postage stamp — under a magnifying glass!
But it's not just the extraordinary service that makes shopping in the Japanese capital unique. Wherever you go, wherever you shop, you always find the most incredible items, whether that be at the famous select shops like United Arrows and Beams, the bustling vintages stores in Harajuku, or even in the Sankyu and 7-11 convenience stores that dot every street of the city. The high level of quality and curation also extends to food. In Tokyo, you can find the most exquisite Japanese food, of course, but also the best hamburger outside of the States and the best vongole pasta outside of Italy.
It's no wonder that Hiroshi Ōnishi, president and chief executive of Japanese department store Isetan, told me during an interview at Decoded Fashion's Tokyo Summit that he has big plans to open stores in Malaysia and Paris this year, with the aim of extending this idea of 'Cool Japan' and the country’s famous customer service to foreign markets. Faced with flat sales and an ageing population at home, Mr Ōnishi needs to look abroad for growth and is also turning to e-commerce to bring the famous Isetan selection to the rest of the world. Imagine if you could experience the best products and curation from Tokyo without taking a long flight.
That is certainly a proposition I would sign up for. This city has got me hooked.
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