Discover Your Opportunity
Yoshiaki ARAI, CEO of LUMINE, why retail in Japan remains a challenge and opportunity.
(The article was published in the WWD.COM on 3 October,2016)
Yoshiaki Arai, President of Lumine Co. Ltd since 2011 and former Executive Vice President of Lifestyle Business Development at Lumine parent company, East Japan Railway Company, a result of the division and privatization of Japanese National Railways, JNR, in 1987, began his career there in 1966; took a moment during the high summer days this past August to answer a few questions regarding Lumine, his stewardship of the company, the business opportunities and challenges as an operator of large foot-print brick and mortar establishments, as well as Japanese and global consumer sentiment to the rapidly expanding and potentially disruptive digital landscape.
JS: What is Lumine and what are its origins?
YA: Lumine much like its name implies endeavors to create an environment for consumer and society at large that enlightens; providing a source of cultural value as well as a point of view that is both authentic and enriching. We seek a brilliant existence on a social, consumer and community level, and to be a source of guidance to our consumer set.
JS: How many square feet of retail and commercial office do you operate?
YA: As of March 2016 we operate 1.9 million square feet of combined retail and commercial office space.
JS: What have been your objectives and goals since taking over the role of CEO in 2011?
YA: It has been my management philosophy to create a continual dialogue with the company towards the individual consumer and society so that we remain informed, relevant and are able not only to move in lock step with consumer expectation but, when executing on what we learn and listen to offer and create an experience that exceeds the customer’s expectation.
JS: Given the stubbornly persistent deflationary environment in Japan over the last two decades what have been your best successes and biggest challenges in re-invigorating consumer demand at Lumine?
YA: We at Lumine have a taken a somewhat bifurcated view under the prevailing macro- economic conditions in Japan and the larger global climate of low demand, low inflation, low interest rates. On the one hand we study existing consumer needs, tendencies and pathos gleaming actionable metrics that we utilize towards creating meaning for each customer interaction. On the other we always study market dynamics closely, and grasp the needs of consumers forging new markets in the process. Our innovation forward stance has allowed Lumine to work outside the standard coves that constrain other large operators in our competitive set.
JS: In an ever more connected world information is becoming more and more one of the most valuable commodities how is Lumine contributing toward this shift and what are some of the future innovations Lumine is working on to differentiate and insure consumer loyalty?
YA: As the speed and ability to discern what is and is not quality or meaningful, from information streams that are ever more rapid and nuanced, we wrestle with a sense of flexibility and speed; seeking a balance that is always mutating. Rather than simply selling products, we are offering a compelling narrative that suggests a personal value creation, culture, and way of life that is fulfilling beyond mere material possession but fulfilled with experiences.
JS: Most people in the United States have never heard of Lumine why is it important to you to inform consumers in this country about Lumine's activities in Japan?
YA: Today’s global environment necessitates our business to embrace an interchange of cultures whereby we both simultaneously grow. We believe that we gain larger value by exposing and being exposed to experiences outside of our own. Communication is becoming a primary factor in our objective to enlarging our relevancy both in Japan and internationally.
JS: As a majority bricks and mortar operation, how do you embrace digital retail, whether e-comm, s-comm and m-comm; what are some of ways that Lumine seeks to incorporate shifting consumer purchase trends within its current operation?
YA: Lumine’s core business is brick and mortar, however we embrace e-commerce and perceive this modality as one of two major wheels of management. While it is important to have a strong digital presence, we press to make our digital properties unique destinations in their own right providing service, information and user experience that cannot be found in our physical locations.
JS: What are some new projects that are in the pipeline at Lumine in the mid to long term?
YA: We are currently working on many large scale developments in the greater metropolitan Tokyo area. Lumine looks forward to announcing each project as they come nearer to fruition in the near future.
JS: What do you believe to be the biggest opportunities for Lumine going forward and what are some the biggest challenges?
YA: Never being satisfied with present conditions we believe our opportunities to be limitless. In turn, our challenges are also limitless which we embrace as part of our growth trajectory.
JS: What would you like your legacy to be after your time at Lumine?
YA: That the interchange of many people from all over the world has offered me the opportunity to grow up and mentor many talented people.