At P-THREE at our name reflects our purpose: we use our understanding of people’s behaviours and the need to create inspiring places to deliver property for the future.

With CV19 dominating the news and restricting travel, we are continuing with our series of bringing you some global insights which are informative in terms of property development trends and identify how these are being shaped by changing demands of consumers, occupiers and business.

This week we are talking about the retail property market in Japan, following our recent articles on Thailand and Africa. At P-THREE we partner with other like-minded innovative businesses to share global insights and market knowledge. This week, we are delighted to be “in conversation” with Theo Knipfing , Managing Partner of Plus Curiosity, a business advising real estate owners and occupiers on how to drive people and buzz to their physical locations, through the use of curated experiences, art, social media and unique events.

First of all, a bit of background on the Coronavirus in Japan:

There are approximately 16,000 total confirmed cases in Japan as of mid-May, and 773 confirmed deaths so far. For a bit of comparison, the US has 1.54M confirmed cases and 90,000+ deaths, and the UK has 246,000 cases, and 34,000+ cases. With that context in mind, Theo answers various questions we put to him:

What are the 2 or 3 key consumer trends which were prevalent, pre-COVID and are they likely to change post COVID?

First, this is more related to customs rather than trends, but Japan has never had a particularly strong outdoor dining scene. That may change very quickly post-Corona.

Many retail and F&B operators have started to reopen from last week, and from what I can see, people seem to be favouring establishments with outdoor seating, tons of windows, good ventilation, and/or a combination of the above. Outdoor seating may, thus, be a trend here to stay.

By the same token, shopping centre developers are also starting to talk about adding more open-air spaces to the next generation of shopping centres.
Secondly, the Coronavirus related lockdown has certainly impacted e-commerce in a positive way (Japan has one of the lowest rates of e-commerce vs. total market), but it remains to be seen whether this uptick is temporary or permanent. Food delivery services, on the other hand, have also seen a coronavirus-related uptick in sales, which may very well remain at very high levels, even post Coronavirus.

Which retail and restaurant brands have been innovative (and how) and were expanding pre COVID?

Surprisingly, there are no specific F&B brands in Japan doing anything particularly innovative from a global perspective.

On the retail side, fast fashioned powerhouse Uniqlo has recently debuted a new innovative store in Yokohama, called Uniqlo Park. The space is a mix of both retail and kid-friendly amusement facilities including massive slides, climbing walls, and ball pools. This is a step change in terms of how customers engage with the brand and something very different in terms of physical footprint. SEE HERE FOR MORE DETAILS

Which new development is an example of great mixed use, or is there a new development which in whatever way is simply world class?

I’m not sure if its world class, but there is a new mall worth mentioning in the heart of Shibuya called “Miyashita Park”. What makes the project so special is that it’s a joint project between Shibuya City Ward and Mitsui Fudosan, a large developer. The mall is situated on the site of a city park, which the developer rents from the city government on a long-term lease. The developer then builds a mall on the site. The park is simply moved upstairs to the roof of the newly completed mall, and continues to serve the community with expanded and better facilities and equipments (paid for by the developer). This project may become a good case study for a win-win collaborations between the public and private sectors, when it opens next month.


Is there an asset or new development which has clearly articulated its “purpose” (eg what it is going to be famous for)

There’s a new “mall” if you can call it that, called HAREZA which just opened last year in Ikebukuro, a major rail hub in Tokyo. This centre is interesting, in that it’s whole story is built around the concept of live entertainment. There are movie theatres, theatres for plays, a concert hall, a studio for famous youtubers to do their daily broadcasts, and even a live theater for 3D virtual reality pop groups to sing and dance in. I think we will see more and more of these “entertainment shopping malls” which sell performances and experiences rather than actual wares or products.

Are there any examples of shopping centres having been repurposed (or proposed to be repurposed) for other uses?

Japan has a lot less malls than the US and the malls which do exist tend to be a lot smaller than their American counterparts. For this reason, we don’t have a noticeable problem with vacant spaces or anchors pulling out. At least we don’t yet!

From P-THREE, thank you to Theo for the insights into what is emerging in the retail market in Japan. Uniqlo continues to redefine boundaries of excellence; fascinating to hear about Miyashita Park which reminded us of Grosvenor’s unique achievements in the UK at Liverpool One and thirdly at P-THREE we are passionate about the subject of place purpose and hence what has been done at HAREZA particularly resonates.