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Beams: A Nuanced Influencer in Japan and Beyond

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  • BoF Team

TOKYO, Japan — Established in 1976, Beams is one of the longest-running and most established multi-brand retailers in Japan. Over the last two decades, it has consistently had one of the strongest menswear offerings in the sophisticated Japanese market. The early success of the company led to an extensive store roll out across the nation. In 2005 the store began a period of international expansion in opening a location in Hong Kong, which was followed by further locations across Asia. Although the number of Beams stores is vast by Western standards, the store implemented a sub-branding strategy, creating nuanced stores for differing Beams consumers. The company's private labels have come to sit at the heart of its product offering, and are authoritatively regarded as being a key influence in the 'High Casual' movement of their native market and beyond.

BoF spoke to Nakamura Tatsuya, creative director of Beams, to discover more.

BoF: What is it that makes Beams unique, globally and in the Japanese market?

NT: Beams has a unique eye that reflects and innovates Japanese culture.  We present a broad array of fashion and lifestyle through a careful selection of clothing, accessories, home interiors and foods from around the world. Each of our 150-plus stores is edited differently so as to cater to location-specific lifestyles. Beams has created an entire family of labels as the company continues to grow and evolve, from high-end to reasonable, or relaxed loungewear to Classico Italia.

BoF: What are Beams’ most competitive strengths?

NT: Product, store, and service are all part of a cohesive unit at Beams. Buyers, merchandisers, and salespersons meet frequently to ensure that we do everything to be our customer’s first choice. Moreover, people at Beams are absolute fashion lovers who naturally befriend fellow fashion loving customers. We work closely with visual merchandisers and salespersons to create a store that best expresses the lifestyle that we identify the specific store with. Each one of our 150-plus Beams stores is composed of a different selection of products, so as to relate to its geographic location and market.  It is important that a store becomes a living part of its surrounding community.

BoF: Who is the Beams menswear consumer?

NT: There is no specific consumer profile that we target. We focus more on relationship building rather than target profiling. Luckily enough, we know very many of our customers for well over a decade, who we have helped style for college, then for work, and throughout their changing life stages. We continue to grow with these customers.

BoF: How have you their attitude to style change?

NT: Speaking particularly about Japan, the last 20 years have seen a fast and dramatic trend shift; Ivy, American casual, designer brands, UK classic, and Italian classic were all major booms. Having experienced so much variation, Japanese men gained comprehensive familiarity with these styles. In addition, the Internet definitely played a huge role in the abundance of information. No longer hungry for experience or information, men now seem to feel free to follow their instinctive attraction and interests.

BoF: What new product categories have emerged in the last 10 years as part of this evolution?

NT: Given its flexibility, ‘Sartorial’ is a strong category that has emerged in the last decade.  Sartorial style, proposing something totally new every season, may have come from Britain’s New Bespoke designers in the late ‘90s.  Modern-day Sartorial is represented by brands such as Stile Latino, Lardini, PT01, and Boglioli, whose classic techniques and unwavering commitment to quality withstand innovation. Ten years ago, there were only a few high brands that fit this category, but the rise of the aforementioned brands helped to make Sartorial more accessible. These contribute largely to our revenue.

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