Minimalist Japanese retailer MUJI has opened its first location in western Canada, at Metropolis at Metrotown in Burnaby, east of Vancouver. It is currently the largest MUJI location in Canada, though that will change towards the end of the year when it unveils its largest store in North America on Robson Street.
Press were invited to a preview of the store on Friday, August 25. Susanne Milner, who took photos for this article, described the scene — a tea ceremony to kick-off the opening complimented a poetry reading, and there was even a keg of sake on hand (as has been tradition with other MUJI store openings). Dignitaries were on hand, including executives from MUJI and even the Consulate General of Japan. Metrotown is MUJI’s fifth Canadian location, with four stores already open in the Greater Toronto Area.
Crowds lined up on Saturday, August 26, for the store’s grand opening. The first 500 guests received a customized ‘Metropolis at Metrotown’ MUJI tote bag.
The 7,770 square foot Metrotown MUJI is located on the mall’s ground level, down the hall from anchor Hudson’s Bay. Three separate retail spaces were joined together to create the new store (see interactive mall floor plan below), and Japanese fashion retailer UNIQLO will open up the hall this fall in a 20,630 square foot retail space.
Towards the end of this year, MUJI will open a massive Robson Street flagship in Vancouver, which will span an impressive 16,000 square feet. MUJI will replace the recently closed 10,500 square foot Gap store at 1025 Robson Street, as well as the adjacent 5,500 square foot space that once housed denim retailer Below the Belt. Prior to being occupied by Below the Belt, the rounded glass atrium space was the corridor to the upscale ‘Robson Galleria’ shopping complex, which in the 1990’s, housed retailers such as Polo Ralph Lauren, Pegabo and Alfred Sung. The new MUJI flagship, which will be the largest on the continent, will anchor the revitalization of Robson Street’s 1100 Block.
MUJI operates four other Canadian stores, all of which are located in the Greater Toronto Area. MUJI’s first Canadian store opened in November of 2014 at ‘The Atrium’ at 20 Dundas Street West in downtown Toronto, spanning 4,400 square feet on one level. MUJI’s second Canadian store opened in November of 2015 at the Square One shopping centre in Mississauga, measuring 5,225 square feet. In October of this year, MUJI opened a 6,375 square foot unit in Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre. Last month, the company’s fourth Canadian store debuted at CF Markville in Markham, with more than 6,000 square feet of space as well as the longest storefront of any MUJI store in North America to date, with close to 200 feet of corner frontage.
In an interview with Retail Insider last year, MUJI’s Canadian President Toru Akita revealed that the company plans to operate between 15 and 20 stores in Canada by the year 2020. At the Vancouver press event, MUJI confirmed that it plans to eventually operate four or five Vancouver stores and while it wasn’t stated at the event, sources confirm that a third Vancouver-area MUJI lease was finalized several months ago.
MUJI operates 14 American stores, with more to follow as it expands in the US. Of the locations currently open, seven are in the New York City area, three are in the San Francisco Bay area, one is in Boston, and three are in southern California.
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 (with 422 in Japan and about 428 internationally), 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.