Sunday, 1 March 2009

History of MUJI - part 1

In the 1950's the supermarkets of Japan were in crisis. There was an ongoing battle between the supermarkets and manufacturers regarding the final retail price of their products. The disagreements continued well in to the 70's with the Japanese consumer seeing the products available as being "cheap but of poor quality". One of the leading supermarket companies of the time decided to make a stand and through bringing together their creative division the Seiyu supermarkets company decided on a very contradictory way forward. In the late 70's heavily branded exuberant/luxurious products were being seen within Japan as being the way forward. For Seiyu and their president Seiji Tsutsumi they saw a different story, teaming up with the America giant SEARS, who through this collaboration re-established their core values of affordable and quality.

In 1980 with his team of creatives they produced nine household products and thirty one food items. All of the products centered around simple, value for money, They also all followed a rigid colour way of black, white and khaki. As well as all of these values they also concentrated on reduction, recyclable and sustainable, so although products were mass produced there was an ethical commitment to environment. And so through these small steps formed what MUJI was about to come. 

At first with only a few products having been designed and produced, sales were not as good as expected. In fact it was a dissapointment, although the amount of products had increased to forty in the first three months MUJI were struggling with store presence. During a dinner MUJI's president Tsutsumi told his employees how they would move forward. With such simple non-branded products, coupled with having very few products supermarkets were not following their instructions in how to display the products, also the constant competition with other in store more luxurious looking products all made for bad initial sales. 

So to combat this Tsutsumi announced they would set up their own stores in Aoyama and Roppongi, both of these areas being renowned creative centers. Before they could set up MUJI shops they needed to increase their product range and also their reach. So in 1982 MUJI started to distribute their products wholesale to associate shops. 1982 also saw the launch of one of MUJI's longest and most successful products. The product summed up MUJI's language perfectly and summed up the Japan at the time. The product was the MUJI bicycle and coupled with an advertising campaign. MUJI started to make an impact. 

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