Melbourne, the best cultural fit for MUJI

MUJI now has two stores and it's Australian headquarters in Melbourne.

Established in the 1980's, MUJI is a Japan's third largest retailer with over 250 stores in Japan and over 200 outlets in over 20 countries.  It owes its popularity to satisfying consumer demand for lifestyle and household products of simple, natural design, minimal branding and packaging.  Its products are often sourced from sustainable products.

When MUJI, decided to bring its product and a new HQ to Australia in 2013, Melbourne was its first choice. MUJI's Australian-based director Hisashi Takeyama said they saw great potential in Melbourne because of a strong arts community and its healthy retail sector.

After lengthy research, helped along by Invest Victoria's Tokyo Office, MUJI opened its first Australian store in Chadstone, Australia's largest regional shopping complex, and based its Australian corporate headquarters in Melbourne as well. Driving this was MUJI's sense that Melbourne would be Australia's best cultural fit for this innovative brand. MUJI opened its second Melbourne store at the Emporium, in the heart of the city, in 2014.

As you're all aware, Melbourne is a birthplace of many retail businesses, and we considered the fact that Melbourne has a diverse culture and is multicultural. We felt that expanding our business into Melbourne first, which is the cultural capital, is a great place for establishing our brand, so that's why we selected Melbourne.

Hisashi Takeyama
Australian-based Director, MUJI

Setting up in Melbourne: MUJI tries a new approach

Yet months before coming to Australia, MUJI had worked on and off with the Invest Victoria team at our Tokyo office to help them decide the best way to structure their new business in Australia.

Video: MUJI Retail: Managing Director Australia, Hisashi Takeyama

A crucial question that came from MUJI's lengthy research was, would their joint-venture business model work in Australia? Through discussions they realised it wouldn't, and saw that a new approach was needed - a 100% subsidiary, so far untried in an overseas market.  Our Tokyo office provided MUJI with quality information to see if the idea could work.

So, for the business expansion that we did this time around, we took the format of having a 100% subsidiary. …as you know the Victoria government has a branch in Tokyo. So when I was in Tokyo, I received support over there.

Hisashi Takeyama
Australian-based Director, MUJI

This joint work also confirmed the local market would appreciate the design philosophy behind the MUJI brand.

Introducing MUJI to Melbourne: a pop-up store and a lecture on simplicity

Introducing a new product to a new market is hard work. At Invest Victoria we helped MUJI get some initial exposure by showcasing some of their products with a pop-up store at the Spring Fashion Week, after introducing them to the City of Melbourne.

To help get Melbourne in the mood for MUJI, their world-renowned art director Mr Kenya Hara, gave an open lecture at RMIT University, articulating his design philosophy and the relationship between emptiness and simplicity in design, an event we helped promote through our contacts' channels. We also provided MUJI with information about possible sites around Melbourne.

Invest Victoria's ongoing support: confidence building

Despite the fact that we had to start from virtually nothing the Victorian government introduced us to appropriate companies in Melbourne and we were able to consult with those companies until we were satisfied. And in that sense having a contact point, where we were able to discuss everything including any concerns we had, was extremely necessary and effective when considering investing or expanding. When I came to Melbourne for our business trip, the person in charge in Melbourne arranged appointments, and from that person we were introduced to the appropriate people and thereon we were able to negotiate and develop our business.

Hisashi Takeyama
Australian-based Director, MUJI

Innovative firms like MUJI thinking of expanding in Asia Pacific or Australia should feel confident about Melbourne's business potential and its cultural receptiveness to brands like MUJI. As MUJI's Australian-based Director Hisashi Takeyama said,

Melbourne is a great place to establish your brand.

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