Southern Californians who visit Japan this November may find themselves doing a double take in the Tokyo suburb of Kasukabe. The Robinson’s department store they see there really will be a Robinson’s store.
Ito-Yokado, Japan’s second-largest retailer, will establish the first U.S. department store in Japan under an agreement signed Thursday with J. W. Robinson, the Los Angeles-based division of Associated Dry Goods of New York.
Under the 10-year agreement, Robinson’s consented to the use of its name on stores in Japan that reflect the image of the Southern California department store chain. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Michael A. Gould, Robinson’s chairman and chief executive, said it involved an initial fee, plus an additional fee to be paid annually over a five-year period.
The deal, while not providing Robinson’s an actual toehold in the Japanese market, will increase its name recognition among Japanese consumers. That, in turn, could help Robinson’s stores in Southern California, a popular destination for Japanese tourists.
Robinson’s and Associated Dry Goods will furnish marketing and management information to Ito-Yokado. Gould said the agreement will allow “us an opportunity to learn from Ito-Yokado as well.” Initial plans do not call for the store to carry merchandise from Robinson’s here.
Importing U.S. retail concepts to Japan is not new for Ito-Yokado, a diversified mass-merchandise chain whose sales totaled $6.4 million for the year ended February, 1985.
It operates 2,500 convenience stores bearing the 7-Eleven name and 200 Denny’s Restaurants in Japan under licensing agreements with Southland Corp. and Denny’s Inc. It also operates one Oshman’s sporting goods store in Japan.
Ito-Yokado will open its first 350,000-square-foot Robinson’s store in November about 25 miles outside of Tokyo. Nobutake Sato, Ito-Yokado’s managing director, said the company plans to open four to five more stores during the next three to five years.
The Japanese company decided upon Robinson’s after seeking some help in identifying a chain from Mayor Tom Bradley’s office in June, 1984.
Sato said Japanese department stores currently are not doing “so well,” partly because they use a traditional style of business in which retailing is heavily dependent on wholesalers and manufacturers. All merchandise sold through Japanese department stores are taken on a consignment basis.