Shuji Yoshida, joint owner of Miyazaki Konne, is all smiles when asked how things are at the Miyazaki Prefecture satellite shop.
In Tokyo’s Shinjuku district, the bright, glass-walled store matches the image of the generally warm-weather prefecture and welcomes between 3,000 and 5,000 customers a day. Each year, it sells about 200 million yen worth of products from Miyazaki.
The information counter on the second floor is busy dealing with inquiries from people planning to spend a holiday there. Tourism is Miyazaki’s leading industry.
The success of the local government office has caught the attention of other prefectures, which have asked what the store’s secret is. Yoshida’s reply is simple: location.
Miyazaki Konne (“konne” means welcome in the Miyazaki dialect) is on a terrace outside an Odakyu department store and just across the street from the south exit of JR Shinjuku Station. The popular Shinjuku Takashimaya department store is on the opposite site of the road.
Since moving to its current site five years ago, the Miyazaki shop has made an amazing leap forward. At its previous location, in an old building with several tenants near Tokyo Station, annual sales barely exceeded 10 million yen, according to Yoshida.
“We were panicky at first, because as government officials we knew nothing about business,” Yoshida said. “After the move, we had to deal with huge demand. But we had no storage facilities to hold merchandise and no grasp of inventory control.”
Five years ago, the current site was a collection of shabby stalls, according to Yoshida. Only Miyazaki and Hiroshima prefectures responded to a call from Odakyu for tenants as part of a redevelopment plan for the area.
Hiroshima’s satellite shop now stands next to Miyazaki’s.
But an advantageous location alone cannot ensure droves of customers.
In recent years, Miyazaki Konne has offered several hit products, including a brand of “shochu” (distilled spirits) called A Hundred Years of Solitude, which is known to be a favorite of Crown Prince Naruhito, and purple potato juice, which enjoyed a boom after a TV program advertised its high polyphenol content.
The shop also sells produce grown by Miyazaki farmers who have trouble getting major stores in Tokyo to take their products, Yoshida said.
Another popular item is a reasonably priced package tour, which offers a two-day trip to Miyazaki from Tokyo for 14,000 yen to 15,000 yen, including airfare and accommodations.
Because the local government-run outlet has been such a success, Miyazaki Konne has recently welcomed interns from towns and villages in the prefecture aiming to acquire business knowledge.
“One even succeeded in getting Takashimaya to sell (one Miyazaki farmer’s) mushrooms,” Yoshida said.
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