MUJI Reveals Ambitious Canadian Expansion Plans (Q&A)

Rendering of the new Yorkdale store, provided by MUJI

Rendering of the new Yorkdale store, provided by MUJI

Minimalist Japanese retailer MUJI will be opening its third Toronto-area store next month, at Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre. The store will be the brand’s largest and most comprehensive Canadian location to date, and one of a number to open in Canada over the next several years. The company answered one question that it never has to date — how many stores it plans to operate in the Canadian market. 

The 6,375 square foot Yorkdale MUJI store is set to open on Thursday, October 18, in the mall’s newest expansion wing anchored by a new 199,000 square foot Nordstrom store (opening on October 21). Muji will be located next to another Japanese retailer, Uniqlo, opening on October 20. 

The Yorkdale MUJI will be unlike any other in Canada, being the first to feature in-store personal shopping consultants (two of them), an interior advisor and a styling advisor (being experts in the brand’s home decor and fashion selections), as well as an embroidery studio to customize MUJI product on-site. In addition to the brand’s popular gel ink pens, 'beads sofas', organic cotton shirts and ultrasonic aroma diffusers, MUJI Yorkdale will offer a selection of new garments and accessories, new food items, as well as ‘MyBag' totes with exclusive Canadian designs. Yorkdale store departments will include garments (for men, women and children) and accessories; health and beauty; stationery; storage and furniture; bedding; kitchenware; food; as well as stamp and embroidery stations mentioned above. 

Photo: MUJI

Photo: MUJI

We asked Muji’s Canadian President, Toru Akita, several questions about Muji’s new Yorkdale store, as well as the company’s plans for expansion within Canada. Questions asked by us are marked as ‘R-I’:

R-I: Will there be anything unique about the new Yorkdale MUJI store, that will be different from the company's other two Canadian stores? 

Mr. Akita: The Yorkdale store, following the theme of omotenashi, a Japanese way of treating guests with attentive care, will offer new services for the first time in Canada. For example, in order to help customers to improve the comfort of their homes, or to find comfortable and well-fitting clothes, we will have an interior advisor and a styling advisor in store. Also, we will have an embroidery service which will allow customers to transform MUJI garments into their own unique, original items.
R-I: Will there be any other GTA locations opening for MUJI?

Mr. Akita: Yes. We are considering opening 1 to 3 new stores in the GTA area in the next year.

Photo: MUJI

Photo: MUJI

R-I: Can any other Canadian MUJI locations be confirmed, or at least markets? (ie Vancouver/Montreal)

Mr. Akita: The plans have not been finalized yet. We are currently considering potential locations in other provinces, for new stores that could be opened in 2017.
R-I: How many locations, ultimately, could MUJI end up operating in Canada? 

Mr. Akita: By 2020, we are considering opening 15 to 20 stores in Canada. (note: this is the first time this information has been publicly released).
R-I: We like to credit brokers and store designers: Is MUJI represented by a brokerage in Canada, and is there a designer we can credit with designing the Yorkdale store? 

Mr. Akita: Please do not credit any brokers or store designers. This is because the concept of anonymity is a very important part of the MUJI brand, and we wish to protect this concept.

MUJI’s first Canadian store opened in November of 2014 in Toronto's ‘The Atrium’, in a 4,400 square foot retail space at 20 Dundas Street West. A second Canadian MUJI store opened in November of 2015 at Square One in Mississauga, spanning 5,225 square feet. 

Known for being innovative and its products being affordable and unbranded, MUJI carries various household items, furniture, appliances, stationery and apparel. With hundreds of stores worldwide, it saves money by spending little to nothing on market research and advertising. Muji is short for Mujirushi Ryohin, or no-brand superior items, and was founded in 1980 as the private-label brand of a major supermarket chain (not unlike Canada's Joe Fresh). MUJI currently operates 12 American stores. Seven are in the New York City area, three are in the San Francisco Bay area, and two are in southern California. 

Canadian Retail News From Around The Web: October 5, 2016