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Aeon Mall inviting foreign firms to be tenants

Aiming to add variety in the face of intensifying competition, Japanese retail giant Aeon Mall is inviting foreign businesses to sign on as tenants in Japan.

Aeon Mall, which has about 150 shopping centres across Japan, will aim to have its first new-look location open next spring. A new dedicated department includes two staff members assigned to Chinese businesses and three to businesses from members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Tenants from other areas, such as Europe and the US, are also sought.

A broad range of sectors is being considered, including restaurants, apparel, home products and services. As well as major chains, Aeon is interested in small businesses in the tourism sector.

Aeon Mall is negotiating arrangements with more than 30 companies already. By inviting multiple tenants all at one time, the company seeks to recreate the feel of an Asian-style “restaurant alley”, for example.

Targeted candidates include foreign companies interested in doing business in Japan but hesitant because they lack knowledge of the market. To help deepen their understanding, Aeon will offer tours of its malls in Japan and abroad.

Japan’s shopping centre market grew 4.5 per cent last year to 31 trillion yen (US$302 billion), according to the Japan Council of Shopping Centers, but was treading water on an existing-store basis.

The market’s medium- to long-term outlook is also dim with the shrinking Japanese population and the rise of online shopping.

“Mass-producing the same type of shopping mall will not lead to substantial growth going forward,” says Aeon Mall president Akio Yoshida. The company last year opened a more experience-focussed mall with an athletic track and racetrack.

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