It is already 70 years since Midosuji, Osakas longest main street, was completed. With high-class brand-name shops opening one after another, it is making changes into a fashionable part in the Osaka townscape. Amid such development, we asked Mr. Richard Collasse heading CHANEL K.K. Japan, which has a streetside store set up in Shinsaibashi, about the current status of Osaka/Kansai* economy. Mr. Collasse, who comes to Osaka at least once a month, suggests that Europe-Japan economies should integrate and also that we should broaden the sidewalks to make Midosuji even more attractive.
What was your impression of Osaka on your first visit?
The first time I came here was 35 years ago when I was 17. Looking at Osaka Castle, I felt the beauty, power and history of Japan. After all, it was the very first time I ever saw a castle of Japan. I also felt Osaka was similar to Venice(Italy) in having many rivers or waterways. In those days, Osaka had only a small number of skyscrapers and it looked to me like a wide, spacious town.
How about Japan nowadays?
Although the pace and rhythm of Japanese peoples lifestyles have changed being able to shop and eat out 24 hours a day etc, the kind-heartedness and spirit of helping each other that I saw in them have not changed. The spirit of service is still outstanding. People say that public order has become worse, but compared with some major cities of other countries, it is still good enough in Osaka.
Looking at Osaka/Kansai from the perspective of business?
Since 30 years ago, I have been doing business in Osaka. Ever since then, I have felt friendly and familiar with Osaka. I come from the south of France and we have a similar disposition to people from Osaka. From many Osaka business owners, I have learned how to do business. Women from Osaka are elegant with good sense of fashion. They feel no resistance to ‘hakuraihin(foreign-made articles).
CHANEL K.K. has expanded in many ways, from opening the directly-managed streetside store in Shinsaibashi to setting up boutiques and corners of perfumes, cosmetics and jewelry etc in department stores. Will you tell us about your achievements and also your plans for the future?
We opened the Shinsaibashi store in the spring 1996 before other brand-name shops. The boutique in the Rihga Royal Hotel has been going on for more than 20 years. Mysteriously, if the Kanto** region is active, the Kansai region becomes inactive. If Kansai is doing well, Kanto is the other way. Our Kansai stores have been struggling for the last 2 to 3 years, but they have recently come back. From here onward, we will focus our strength on the existing ones, rather than on increasing the stores.
Because of a number of plans in Kansai for new openings and increased floor spaces of department stores, the expected surplus of stores is causing concern.
Since the population is on the decrease, winners and losers may be more clearly decided depending on the ways of doing business. By integration of management, synergetic effects can be expected for the ones integrated to become more powerful.
What can you suggest for making Midosuji more attractive like the Champs-Elysees in Paris?
In the length and width, Midosuji is like the Champs-Elysees more than Chuodori in Ginza Tokyo, but it is different in being one-way. If you made the sidewalks of Midosuji wider so that various events could be conducted, there would be more boutiques both inside and outside, more people coming, and Midosuji would be one of the worlds only few boulevards.
As Chairman of the European Business Council in Japan, what do you wish for further development of Japan-Euro economic relations?
GDPs of Europe and Japan occupy 40% of the whole worlds. Japan and Europe should be confident enough to aim for ‘integration, rather than just having individual companies form relations of alliance. Good examples are shown by the collaboration of both sides cutting-edge medical-related fields or by adjustment of standards. If things develop as far as that, Kansai will be able to show greater dynamism.
|Mr. Richard Collasse (Career Resume)|
|Born in France in 1953. Graduated from Eastern Linguistics Dept., University of Paris. After serving at the Embassy of France in Tokyo, appointed chief representative of GIVENCHY Japan in 1981, and moved to CHANEL K.K. Japan in September 1985. Appointed President, CHANEL K.K. Japan in August 1995. From 2002 to 2008, Head of European Business Council in Japan.
*The Kansai Area comprises six prefectures of Hyogo, Kyoto, Nara, Shiga, Wakayama, and Osaka in its center.
**The Kanto Area consists of the metropolis of Tokyo, and six surrounding prefectures: Kanagawa, Saitama, Gunma, Tochigi, Ibaraki and Chiba.