Photo/IllutrationThe Gion Machiya shopping facility, which was redeveloped by Daimaru Matsuzakaya Department Stores Co. from a traditional "machiya"-style house in Kyoto’s Higashiyama Ward, is shown on July 3. (The Asahi Shimbun)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

A Japanese department store operator believes the time is right to revitalize local communities through businesses, and it is enlisting one of the world's top luxury watch brands to help.

Daimaru Matsuzakaya Department Stores Co. will open a new shop of Switzerland’s Hublot brand on Aug. 26 in its Gion Machiya shopping facility, which was redeveloped from a traditional "machiya"-style house in the Gion district of Kyoto’s Higashiyama Ward.

It will be the third directly run outlet of Hublot in Japan after Tokyo’s Ginza district and Osaka’s Shinsaibashi district. Limited-edition items that have yet to be released in the country, along with other products, will be available at Gion Machiya.

Daimaru, which was established in Kyoto and now is part of Daimaru Matsuzakaya, is marking its 300th anniversary of its founding as a kimono shop this year, and the opening of the Hublot store is one of its commemorative projects.

Daimaru Matsuzakaya remodeled an aged wooden two-story machiya with a total floor space of 212 square meters to open Gion Machiya, and held talks with famed name brands to have them open shops inside the facility. Gion Machiya is 1.4 kilometers from the Daimaru Kyoto department store.

France’s Hermes upscale brand did business there from November last year to the end of July, and the Hublot outlet will open in Gion Machiya following the Hermes shop.

The planned outlet, Hublot Boutique Kyoto, will be open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, with occasional closures. Until when Hublot will continue the store’s operations is unclear, according to Daimaru Matsuzakaya officials.

Hublot Boutique Kyoto will feature a specially designed sofa made of Nishijin-ori fabric, a tea room floored with tatami mats and other furnishings.

“We will present a new type of attractiveness by using Japanese-style fittings typically found in Kyoto,” said a Hublot public relations official.

Hublot, which was founded in 1980 in Switzerland’s Nyon, currently has directly run outlets in 36 nations across the world.

REVITALIZING LOCAL COMMUNITIES

Outside Kyoto, Daimaru has been proceeding with a unique strategy of seeking profits through redeveloping areas around its department stores and thereby revitalizing local communities there.

A successful example of those cases is efforts initiated in the late 1980s by the Daimaru Kobe store in a former foreign settlement in the Motomachi district of Kobe’s Chuo Ward.

Around the time, many people visited areas near Sannomiya Station in Kobe for shopping, not regions around Daimaru Kobe, as JR and other rail lines are available at the terminal station.

Then Daimaru Kobe leased surrounding buildings and opened luxury fashion brand shops and other stores along the streets, being careful not to spoil the atmosphere of the previous foreign settlement.

As those redevelopment efforts to allow people to enjoy shopping more proved successful, there currently are 60 stores and shops around Daimaru Kobe.

Partly because the Sogo Kobe department store in front of Sannomiya Station suffered severe damage from the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake, Daimaru Kobe was able to post the largest sales in the region from the late 1990s.

Lessons learned from Daimaru Kobe’s revitalization were applied to operations of the Daimaru Shinsaibashi store in Osaka’s Chuo Ward.

Based on the lessons, more than 10 brands have opened their shops primarily along a shopping street running north to south on the east side of Daimaru Shinsaibashi.

“The success of stores’ operations depends on whether local areas can be revitalized,” said a Daimaru insider.

(This article was written by Hideo Sato and Kohei Kondo.)