LOS ANGELES — Japanese retailer Muji continues its expansion plans in the U.S. later this month with a new store set to open at Westfield Santa Anita.
The 6,351-square-foot door, located about 20 miles northeast of downtown Los Angeles in the city of Arcadia, will serve as the company’s sixth store in California and 13th unit in the U.S. Muji Santa Anita, set for an opening Jan. 12, bows with the company’s Found Muji China collection. The special line includes blue porcelain plates and bowls inspired by the Song Dynasty as well as Chinese vintage-inspired tea sets and a workbench. Executives think the collection will resonate and benefit from the San Gabriel Valley area’s large base of Asian residents.
The Found Muji collections are designed off of trips taken by the company’s creative directors and based on cultures from a variety of countries, including Germany, Thailand, France, Ecuador and India.
“In the U.S. market, I think [the concept] is quite unique, but we need to at the same time [continue marketing] our concept to the U.S. customer,” Muji USA Ltd. president Asako Shimazaki said. “That is the reason why we have big potential in the U.S.”
The Arcadia store’s opening will be followed up two weeks later by Muji’s first store in Boston, with the company also looking at markets such as Seattle and Chicago.
The retailer brand’s parent, Ryohin Keikaku Co. Ltd., is headquartered in Japan and counts about 13,000 workers globally across its offices and nearly 400 stores in Japan and more than 300 outside the country. Muji sells a mix of apparel and household products with a brand that’s focused on quality essential items and the translation of its original name, Mujirushi Ryohin, which from Japanese means “no brand, quality goods.”
Most of the company’s sales, about 60 percent, come from household items and the remainder from apparel. Shimazaki sees the potential for the apparel category to grow in the longer-term, especially as the retailer continues to expand in the U.S.
She declined to say just how many stores in the U.S. the company is targeting, tempering Muji’s interest in growth with the current challenges within the American retail market.
“We often [are asked] that question, but it’s hard to say how many stores because we don’t want to expand our business [too much] in the U.S. because [the] U.S. market is really, really difficult to survive and we need to make a profit from each store,” Shimazaki said. “So it means we try to focus on the important markets first and then expand.”
All of the company’s U.S. stores are currently operating at a profit, according to Shimazaki.
Muji USA’s headquarters are in New York, which is where it began its growth in the U.S. in late 2007, benefiting from a customer base that included a mix of multigenerational residents and tourists already familiar with the brand. As the company looks at the West Coast, it’s now plotting how best to attract residents of the neighborhoods where it decides to locate its stores with a focus on pitching the brand as the go-to for items used in daily life.
The company also believes there’s a hole in the market for a retailer that covers all bases of a customer’s needs. While its apparel is often competitive with that of Uniqlo, for example, it has an edge in that it also carries towels, cleaning systems, pots and other items for the home, bathroom or kitchen under one roof.