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With Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Hermes and other famed foreign fashion brands launching their own shops in Tokyo, department store chains are seeking ways to attract customers other than depending on foreign names.

Starting next month, 11 department store chains will introduce unit shops, which are managed by the chains themselves rather than by individual tenants, in a tieup with Isetan Co., the Tokyo-based department store chain that initiated the move.

Among the 11 chains are Sapporo-based marui imai Inc., Nagoya-based Meitetsu Department Store Co. and Fukuoka-based Iwataya Department Store Co. They hope the idea will attract customers and boost overall profitability.

Until recently, department stores typically assigned the management of much of their fashion floors to individual tenants. Although the stores generally managed certain sections themselves, that management was far from strategic, observers say.

Under the unit shop concept, however, they will introduce Isetan-developed standards for lineups and displays, which will lead to development of a distinct character.

Isetan, which has a good reputation as a fashion retailer, came up with the idea and has introduced it in six outlets.

Combined sales at unit shops in a six-month period through March came to 4.72 billion yen, up 8.6 percent from a year earlier, when the strategy had not been fully implemented, according to Isetan officials.

Isetan plans to spread the unit shop concept to its other stores and to those of other department store chains.

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