Shibuya 109 lagging sales = Slowing of gal? Not at all.

Cool photoshop by Tokyo Genso

If you’ve read the Doll for a while, you’ll know two things that gets under my craw are: 1. Negativity to others in the Overseas Gal world 2. Bad reporting about gals.

Now there is really bad reporting:

cnngo got themselves the same Mekas guy who was wrong about both gals and oraora-kei. He went off again in the article gyaru gaki on unwed mothers, like a 1950s muckraker. So yet again cnngo shows itself as the pinnacle of journalism by choosing a reporter with bias to report on something. Kudos. -_-

And then there is not enough research and meat-of-a-story reporting:

Which is the topic of today’s blog post.

Miruku linked to a new Japan Times article that for the most part uses statistics to back up their conclusions. The problem is, we all know statistics can be used to further a point that isn’t true. Correlation doesn’t equal Causation.

The Japan Times article: Shibuya 109 Eyes Rebound

Please feel free to read it here and we’ll go from there

In fiscal 2009 the commercial icon experienced a year-on-year decrease in sales for the first time in 14 year …a drop of somewhere between 5 percent and 9 percent in the business year that ended in March

This is a fine statistic and could be a cause for worry if people didn’t consider

a) the financial crisis

b) less teens because of Japan’s declining birthrate

c) the prevailing trends of teen stores as a whole (compare this to say stores at LaForet). The WWD article on Japanese teens dwindling play money sheds light on this.

d) the expansion and sometimes over expansion of gal brands within Tokyo.

I am not sure if this is a decrease in sales for gal overall. Since 109 has opened 3 other gal malls have opened up: Shinjuku Alta, Lumine EST and Ueno ABAB.

…does a retail chain really need 3 stores in Tokyo? Much less the amount that Mars and Liz Lisa have. Not to mention the stores also in Yokohama and Chiba, the big commuter cities of Tokyo. Or the discount gal stores found in open area malls in Nakano and Ueno. Also, now they’re getting competition even now from Donki (via blooomzy).

In some ways gal stores did this to themselves. In the boom years they over-expanded and in the lean years they’re paying for it.

I know people think of gal sometimes as this minor trend within Japanese fashion. But GAL is HUUUUUUGE. And the brands are making bank:

Shibuya 109, run by TMD Corp., which is owned by Tokyu Corp., doubled its sales over the past 13 years.

In contrast, annual sales at major department stores have fallen continuously for the past 13 years.

While lolita and other Harajuku styles make waves overseas, gal is massive. Think about the sheer amount of people in employs each year. AGEHA and POPTEEN are both in the top 5 of women’s magazine sales.

I cannot overemphasize that enough.

Then the article speaks about changes.

Nearly a third of the stores undergo remodeling or are replaced every year, according to 109.

This sounds like an obscene amount to the casual reader. However, let’s look at these stores that remodeled in 2009: W♥C, Gilfy, Liz Lisa, Swordfish, Duras, ReDark and Egoist.

Are these brands with sagging sales? Redark with its sophomore slump, yes. But W♥C? No way! Liz Lisa and Gilfy I have my doubts about as well.

As far as replacement, well I think that is Tokyu corp. doing wrong in 2009.

“We would like our tenants to do business where their brand identities stand out.” – 109’s General Manager

Well I’d like that, too. -_-  But the Tokyu experimental “stage brands” are the ones who got replaced this year. Tokyu needs to take a look at itself. :-S

It sounds so dire, but is it any store with brand recognition leaving 109? The only one I could think of last year is Buzz Spunky. :evil:

In its place Miia, EMODA and Muira are rising and all 3 have gotten some good name recognition. Minirdees and Gimlet have gotten some magazine press as well. :sparkle2:

Gal is still going strong, it just forgot it needed to check itself and make sure expansion fit with consumption. :oops:


  1. May 18, 2010 / 1:21 pm

    articles like these are so frustrating…
    however, gal is lucky to have a such a smart representative on it’s side! mitsu, you really are a godsend to the western gal world.

    • Mitsu
      May 18, 2010 / 1:30 pm

      This one wasn’t so bad as cnngo, I just wish they balanced it out more :oops:

  2. supakawaiigurl
    May 18, 2010 / 1:22 pm

    I completely disagree.since the crisis the only thing I remember considering GAL is the end of Cawaii! magazine publishing, and I think that’s all. every year Tokyo Girls Collection show promotes some new brands pumpin here and there, and they exist and they have sales. maybe not all of them, but I think it indicates that the fashion does delelop and gets better. WC has huge sales, I believe, as LIZ LISA, Cecil McBee CO&LU & much more. the magazines still come out with new trends and lots of new items

    I do agree there’s maybe some drop in sales, but this drop of sales is all over the world, and it gets into all industries, why Japan should be exception, especially when it has highly developed and big its own market, I think it’s natural

    although to me gal fashion seems to be stagnating since the second half of 2008 but it’s my personal perception ;) I still think gal fashion hasn’t ended yet. not now ^^

    • Mitsu
      May 18, 2010 / 1:33 pm

      Yeah that was the time Vanilla Girl went down as well. Shucks about both. I really liked Vanilla Girl, although I felt Cawaii was getting upstaged by SCawaii continually.

      Yeah I agree, I think pointing out one pinnacle people should be pointing out all of them. I mean show Ginza’s high brand slump before accessible 109 gets blows to it.

      Hmmmm why do you say exactly 2nd half of 2008? I think gal fashion has its highs and lows. I do get bored of the contiual ski hat in the Winter and the love of leopard. However, I think popgal and mode are changing what gal is. I’d like to see more of it :-D

  3. May 18, 2010 / 1:53 pm

    Eurgh cnngo just annoys me most of the time. They’re reports are so bias (the reporter usually gives off an ‘I hate Gal etc. vibe’), and they only ever seem to offer one side of the argument :x

    Everyone knows that the credit crunch was worldwide, and Japan was affected especially.
    You made some really good points and I hardly doubt they would be opening so many other stores/malls if they were doing so badly.

    Haha you should link cnngo to this post XD

    • Mitsu
      May 18, 2010 / 2:42 pm

      cnngo often spills over to CNN. Seriously news is all crap. LOL But it seems cnngo is still stuck on “LOOK WHITE PEOPLE ASIAN LAND IS CRAZEEE” -_-

      Japanprobe should be hired to do cnngo, they’d run it much better :o I’d still work for them though. Money is money and a job in Japan is a job :depressed:

  4. May 18, 2010 / 2:07 pm

    I read the article from Japan Times and it made me frown- as you said, they seem to have completely forgotten that we´re living in a financial crisis at the moment and that nearly every big business is having its own problems. I also can´t agree with the “lack of customer confidence” or at least not with how they make it a crucial point of the whole “problem”. When I was at 109, I saw so many people shopping really hard and I sometimes wondered where they took all their money from. Maybe it´s a thing of mentality, but in my opinion, the lack of customer confidence in the Western world is much worse… I see it here in Germany when I go shopping (which I rarely do). Some years ago, we used to go to the city after school and everyone came back home with some shopping bags full of clothes etc. Now we hardly do that any more and when we go shopping, everyone´s complaining about the prices- that´s what I call lack of customer confidence.
    About the need to restrict the opening of always new stores and gal malls, I completely agree with you. For example, I saw the big LizLisa store in 109 and when I went to Harajuku the next day I saw another of their stores just as big as the 109 store and with the same clothes. Do the brands really need to go that far with expanding their business? In my opinion, no. It´s better to have one or two big stores which run smoothly even during times like the ones we´re living now rather than a batch of small stores which you constantly have to worry about.

    All in all, this is a great post! :-D

    • Mitsu
      May 18, 2010 / 2:53 pm

      I really like how you read it and looked at it and saw something else that you felt was wrong.

      Customer confidence seems like a phrase marketers throw around that might not mean so much. I mean it’s extremely important when discussing electronics or cars or such, but clothing? Are people thinking, oh I won’t buy this it won’t make me look like the hottest girl ever….?

      Pricing definitely seems an issue, and judging by the amount of sets and the onset of lucky bags for Golden Week makes me think they’re trying these options to move more product.

      I definitely agree about the Liz Lisa store. I mean it’s it walking distance to the other, and it never seems as crowded as the 109 store is. In fairness it’s been around a while, while other stores in the area haven’t. Six Liz Lisa stores in Tokyo. It’s kind of crazy :icon_eek:

      And WC with 3 stores in Tokyo now. They’re really popular, and the WC mixi has a thread where people ask about hard to find items hoping they’ll be at one of the 3 stores. However, it does seem quite soon. :icon_eek: Brands gotta be careful :-D

      Thank you for your compliment AND input. I really enjoyed what you had to say about it. :wink:

  5. アンジェリカちゃん
    May 18, 2010 / 2:30 pm

    I don’t mean to say anything rude, but could it be because of the ShixHara trend going around? :^_^;;:
    Maybe people are just shopping more in Harajuku since the trend started? :?:
    I am sure GAL trend will be around forever though :hearts:

    • Mitsu
      May 18, 2010 / 2:40 pm

      I’m really doubt that since Harajuku big brands are more expensive typically. Like Lowry’s Farm & Hysteric Glamour. As a whole I can’t say that’s where the money’s going. I think the money is just NOT there all around.

  6. May 18, 2010 / 6:19 pm

    Indepth post(i think im too tired to responded in an articulate way,sorry for any mistakes)I tried to read this on my bb but failed with it tiny screen:O
    I read both those articles before and i dismissed them tbh.Theres too many badly researched articles out on the web misinforming people about gal or even other Japanese fashions.It annoys me ,the 1st one just felt biased and the 2nd one brought up some interesting figures but i agree with what you said.Ahh too tired must sleep:O

    • Mitsu
      May 19, 2010 / 11:38 pm

      LOL i definitely have to be in an awake mood to read some stuff. That cnngo,… sigh :x

  7. May 18, 2010 / 7:36 pm

    I definitely don’t think gal is going anywhere either… How stupid of them to jump to conclusions like that :x
    I agree~ last year was a bad year for the global economy, I think & that’s where the lagging sales came from.

    • Mitsu
      May 19, 2010 / 11:39 pm

      It was a bit of a useless news piece, ohhh English Japan news -_-

  8. Maki
    May 18, 2010 / 8:44 pm

    How silly! How could any self respecting journalist write about any trend going down the tubes right now without really factoring in the economic situation. :^_^;;:

    This is a bit off topic, but since you were wanting to see more nail art in one of your previous posts, here’s a few I’ve done recently (on my own nails). I’m still a novice, of course :) And please excuse some stray polish on my spring nails, I took the pictures before doing cleanup just in case anything got messed up. :depressed:

    • Mitsu
      May 19, 2010 / 11:40 pm

      SKILLS GIRL SKILLS!! Keep up the great work!!! I really love those lace ones. YAY nail eyecandy keeps me happy! Maybe I should put together a gaijin gal nail page? It’s selfish cus I wanna see more nails :oops:

      • Maki
        May 20, 2010 / 7:08 am

        You should! I’d love to have a page like that, it’s a great way to get new ideas and learn other people’s tricks :D

  9. May 18, 2010 / 8:45 pm

    Thank you so much for writing up this article, you are the most knowledgable person to speak on this topic obviously. So it’s very good to hear the facts and points from you.

    CNNgo has a lot of people whom I wouldn’t consider journalists and their articles are nothing more than entertainment pieces. And like you said it’s a lot of “Look at how weird these Asian types are, isn’t it fun to observe these creatures??” XP

    Also I agree gal is huge, I mean I see so many girls here I’d call casual or half gals. Working gal trends or pieces in with traditional Japanese OL type fashion. So their money is going into these malls as well. I wouldn’t say the gal style is mainstream, but it’s getting there.

    • Mitsu
      May 19, 2010 / 11:42 pm

      I agree, there’s so many people that are looking at gal fashion. I often see 109 trends head to Harajuku and the like. The door works both ways, but I do think 109 has a lot of designs that attract a lot of types of people :-D

  10. maky
    May 18, 2010 / 10:01 pm

    I really agree with what you said. While sales may have gone down, it is nothing compared to what other major department stores are facing (as is mentioned in the article). Seibu department store in Yurakucho(Ginza) is actually CLOSING this year IIRC, and it is a huge store right next to the station. :O Also, an Isentan closed in Kichijoji, and many other stores have been closing across the country.
    What sets 109 apart from these other stores is that 109 has a defined market and the other stores are filled with the same old shops targeting OLs and obachans. In my experience, there is less brand loyalty with mainstream ladies fashion brands compaired to gal brands.
    The individual stores in the department store may come and go with their popularity, but there will always be a need for young trendy fashion. Even if the trend turns toward super goth fashion or back to the hiphop style of the late 90s/early 2000s, the shops in 109 would simply change their focus and start churning out items to meet demand.
    It is true that fast fashion brands such as Forever 21 have become competitors for domestic gal brands; however, though prices at these fast fashion shops are cheap, the quality is also horrible:cry: , and I think many people have the idea that Japanese brand clothing fits the bodies of Japanese people better…:huh:
    Finally, even though the birthrate is going down, the average age of marriage and childbirth continues to rise. Average Tokyo women have a longer period of freedom between their teens and when they get married (and therefore must “settle down”). As many of them live with their parents during this time, they have pocket money to burn on clothes. :wink: Since the Ebi-chan/Cancam “ai sare” boom finished a couple of years ago, the general fashion vibe here has become much more “gal”ish. This is easy to see if you compare current CanCam and JJ mags to ones published in 2006 or so. :) Women in their late 20s and 30s are having more fun with their private fashion and more magazines are being published to target them. I know several OLs in their 40s who shop at 109 for fashionable items at cheap prices :cheery: As we all know, it has become more acceptable in the mainstream for mamas to dress up in gal fashion, too :note:

    Also, I think store renovation is quite standard in Tokyo- it seems to happen a lot everywhere. It keeps the design of the store looking fresh and gets attention.

    Sorry this is so long! I just want to add that Marxy (the Mekas guy) was actually editor of CCNgo Tokyo, but I guess he just resigned. Though I appreciate how he contributed to information published in English on gals in the past, I have to say that his articles (especially recently) come across as extremely classist… I thought he would have a different opinion on gals, judging by how much he seemed to despise Ebi-chan and Cancam during its boom. You think he would appreciate women going against male-approved “conservative” fashion, but it seems like he doesn’t find anything good in trends that go against his ideal of what a Japanese woman should look & dress like (too harsh?! sorry! :^_^;;: )
    I wish there were more women journalists reporting on Japanese fashion & trends in the mainstream media… whenever (straight) guys report on this topic, their personal bias on “what is attractive /not attractive” always seems to show through. -_-

    • Mitsu
      May 19, 2010 / 11:48 pm

      I agree about brand loyalty. Maybe it has something to do with charisma brands, or brands trying to sell a whole look. Like Backs-kei for example that really broke down all style options. Sometimes I think gal stores are popular because they create looks and outfits so the people who buy them don’t have to :mrgreen:

      You spoke about an age range and I’m curious if 109 brands will try to expand that. It’s obvious SLY, Duras, and Cecil McBee have a sometimes older clientele, and I’m wondering if that will move into other new brands. Such as EMODA. I know 40 year olds that shop at 109, too. They’re interested in jrock, but connect with many of the 109 brands.

      I wonder if it was pressure that made him resign. I must say I’m pleased. While I’m all for more gaijin discussing Japanese fashion, I do get upset when they use it to further a bias. I agree I think it is a masculine trend to report on fashion and paint it with a broad brush. Calling all gals blonde or such is a common misnomer. Instead of understanding the more indepth changes of gal hair overtime.

  11. May 19, 2010 / 5:21 am

    Great rebuttal! I’ve only recently realised how huge gal style is (as I’m more gothically inclined myself). Anyone shopping in 109 on a Sat or Sunday afternoon would know how chaotic it is, and how impassioned about the style the consumers are! As IF Uniqlo or H & M are selling the same stuff or are any sort of threat! FFS.

    And really, gal style can be seen everywhere now – on recent visits to Singapore and Malaysia, I saw a huge number of girls are wearing gal style without even knowing its name, such is the sphere of influence over fashion generally.

    • Mitsu
      May 19, 2010 / 11:50 pm

      I agree. I think the only threat such other brands have are for basics and such. I often see gal street snaps or model everday snaps featuring Zara shorts with a 109 top, or Kumicky lately with the H&M top and 109 bottoms.

      • May 20, 2010 / 6:14 pm

        I noticed this, too. I remember a recent feature in nuts that showed girls combining more expensive gal brands with cheaper, fast-fashion basics from from places like H&M and Zara. If this is indicative of a general trend, it would certainly explain 109’s sagging sales, but not a decline in gal fashion as a whole. Honestly, I doubt that gals are shopping any less, just shopping differently!

  12. May 19, 2010 / 7:17 am

    It’s good to see this article getting discussed again. I don’t read cnngo, but I read the Japan Times everyday. As far as English coverage of Japanese news goes, it’s not too bad. It tries to cover a huge range of topics but lacks experts on each one. As for the 109 article, it DOES acknowledge the economy’s effect and the valid competition of fast fashion brands (I think some of you well-meaning commenters missed that!)

    It also mentioned that the number of visitors increased, suggestion that although people may not have the same disposable income as before, they are still interested in the brands. Also, it mentions the stores changing/remodeling as positive, keeping things up to date and on-trend.

    So, considering the most of the JT readership probably only has a passing interest in the fortunes of 109, I think it’s a fairly positive piece.

    However the point you raise about over-expansion is excellent. There was a time when my number one draw to Tokyo was the shopping. Now (happily) I can find the exact same brands where I live and in most of the big cities. As you mentioned, even Tokyoites have multiple options for the same brand. It really is overkill!

    • Mitsu
      May 19, 2010 / 11:54 pm

      The only thing that bothered me about the JT article is how they spent 1 or 2 paragraphs on Amuraa and such when that is not at all what currently 109 is about.

      I did appreciate their commentary on overseas buyers. Chinese and other buyers keep those stores open during the weekdays easily. I’ve had to do some on the spot translation for shop staff who looked at me like “uhhhh do something >_< " I think the over expansion also dilutes what 109 means to gals now. I mean they still love it as do non gals, but when that magazine item can be gotten at so many places then 109 is not the goal as much anymore. I really do wish they got numbers on gal brands as a whole. I'd love to see the revenue on that and if it's changed. :oops:

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