OSAKA (Kyodo) Department store chain Sogo Co. reopened its flagship store Wednesday in its original location in Osaka’s Shinsaibashi district, five years after an ambitious nationwide expansion program led to its collapse.
Many Kansai region residents feel attached to the department store. Sogo hopes to turn its business around with aggressive management.
Before the opening, Shunichiro Uchimura, Sogo’s president, and Shigeaki Wada, the president of Sogo’s parent company, Millennium Retailing Inc., ceremoniously unlocked the new store’s door with a key from the former Sogo store built in 1935.
The new 14-story structure, with two underground levels, has a total retail space of 40,000 sq. meters.
Sogo aims to mainly attract middle-aged to elderly customers with its selection of specialty shops emphasizing hobby items and quality products, in addition to food merchants showcasing produce unique to Osaka.
The chain closed its Osaka store in December 2000 after applying for corporate rehabilitation six months earlier with 1.87 trillion yen in group debts.
Sogo had planned to sell the premises of the Osaka store to a major department store. But Wada, who has led the rehabilitation, withdrew the plan, saying the site would be the “symbol of Sogo’s rebirth.”
About 50 former employees are back at work at the new Sogo.
Yoshio Sugita, 44, came back to the new Sogo last September after working for a jewelry store that used to do business with Sogo.
Sugita, who has been working in the office preparing for the store opening, said he is both happy and nervous to participate in the undertaking that may change the fate of the company. Sugita, who will oversee the children’s clothing department, wants to make Sogo a “No. 1 store” in terms of customer satisfaction to regain their confidence.
“I want to go to the new store as a customer,” said another former Sogo employee, who is in his 30s and now works for an electrical appliance company. “I want my former colleagues to do their best even though the competition can be tough.”
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