The certification program of Japanese Food and Ingredient Supporter Stores Overseas
Interview of Suppoter Stores Isetan Bangkok
Truly Satisfying Our Customer Needs
Attracting Customers through Distinctive Products and Unique Selling Methods
Bangkok / Thailand
Japan as the Concept for the Entire Food Floor
Isetan Bangkok is located in between BTS Siam station and Chit Lom BTS station in central Bangkok. In November 2015, the fifth floor was renovated and became the “Washoku Gallery.” The concept of the food floor is “this is Japan,”
where Japanese food and service is provided hand in hand. According to the senior executive of the fresh foods department, Mr. Yosuke Isono, “Many of our customers who are predominantly Thai travel frequently to Japan, so there is a lot we learn from them.” On the same floor are numerous products from Japan. As it is difficult to keep the price for Japan-made products down because of the import costs, Isetan Bangkok selects high-quality, in-season products on which customers are happy to spend their money.
Seasonal Fruits such as White Peach and Muscat Grapes Gaining in Popularity
Seasonal Japanese products are a must for attracting customers. A good example is the white peaches from Okayama Prefecture, which was sold for a limited period of two weeks. Taking into consideration the time required for ripening and reaching their flavor intensity, the “Okayama Yume Hakuto” variety was sold in the first week and “Shimizu Hakuto” in the second week, and both were received very well. When importing high-end Japanese products such as these, SMS texts or calls are made to VIP customers to inform them that they will be receiving a shipment of a seasonal product from so and so region. Similarly, a bunch of “Shine Muscat” from Okayama that cost 4,100 Baht were sold out in seconds. Japanese fruits are particularly popular within the fresh foods section and are purchased by high income earners who are its regular customers.
Very recently on the “day of the ox,” Japanese unagi eels grilled kabayaki-style were sold by Tsukiji Miyakawa Honten, a restaurant famous for its unagi. The eels were sliced in half lengthwise, and two slices were placed side by side and hand-grilled, recreating the atmosphere of an old unagi specialty restaurant. Some customers were seen purchasing the eels in bulk. “I had thought that Thai people wouldn’t like unagi so much, but we had very successful results. Going forward, I would like to charcoal grill sanma (saury) and have the customers eat them in the store. I want to sell an experience rather than merely selling products. Our mission is to sell these sorts of new Japanese experiences to Thai people.”
The Challenge is Developing New Businesses for Alcohol and Seafood
The top-selling Japanese alcohol is Dassai. This is a direct reflection of its high name recognition among both Japanese and Thai people. However, there are no particular products that come after Dassai. Finding the next Dassai among so many varieties of Japanese alcohol is their next challenge. “Developing new regions for sourcing our seafood is another challenge.
Currently, there is an inclination to source a lot from Hokkaido, but we would also like to focus on seafood from other regions, such as groundfish from the Tohoku region like Miyako, Ofunato, Kesenuma, and Ishimaki, as well as red snow crab from Sakaiminato in Tottori, which is a favorite among Thai people.” Groundfish, which are found in cold waters from the Tohoku region, such as flathead, flounder, sole, cod, and monkfish have a good amount of fat. The fat enhances the flavor and allows the product to stand out among the rest. At present, they are buying from 18 suppliers (three of which are Japanese companies) and are planning to refine and increase their Japanese product lineup with items that can only be found at Isetan Bangkok.
Merchandisers Explain the Products
When selling products, Isetan Bangkok makes sure that they explain them to the customers. “A lot of our customers are shopping for that night’s dinner, so giving cooking suggestions is very important. For example, sales staff explain the cooking method of Japanese scallion or give customers actual recipes or advice on what kind of ingredients accompany the dish.” The merchandisers themselves occasionally sell the products, such as Japanese fruits. When they give a detailed explanation of the region where they are grown, the characteristics of each variety, and the reason for the high pricing, quite often the customers purchase the goods as gifts. “We explain our products with an awareness of promoting the regions from which they are sourced.” With the three merchandisers and Mr. Isono’s excellent eye for products and information-collecting ability, Isetan Bangkok is taking on the role of selling the best that Japan has to offer to the people of Thailand.