Staff Interview: Import Shops

Interviews with shop managers of [High! Standard], [Toll Free] and [Journey].

Q:First of all, tell us about your background when you joined the company.

TOLL FREE: I learned about Seilin & Co. at a local select shop and visited the Hollywood Ranch Market in Daikanyama for the first time back when I was a junior high school student. Iwas intrigued — from the entrance of the shop, I enjoyed not only seeing the unique things there, but also smelling the fragrance ofincense. After that, my interests expanded, and I became interested not only in clothing, but also in fashion. And after that I started aiming to get involved in the apparel business.After I graduated from a vocational school, I first joined another company. But I finally applied for a job at Seilin where I became inspired and interested in apparel, because I wanted to increase the numbers of people whowould be interested and wanted to be stylishlyinvolved in apparel like me.

HIGH! STANDARD:I changed jobs after working for another apparel company, and for a short while I was doing PC-related work. But it wasn’t very much fun to do, and I wanted to get involved with clothing again. I had liked High! Standard from before then and when I found a job opening there I applied for it.

JOURNEY:I had really liked the clothing from Seilin & Co. from some time ago and went to the local shops quite often. I was working at a resort hotel at the time, but foundI couldn’t control my desire to work with the clothing I loved, so I applied without giving anythought about my future. When I visited a Seilin directly managed store I was attracted by the excitement there and the unique worldview that existed only in that space. And thought that I wanted to be there myself. That’s probably the strongest impression I had.

Q:You’ve all had the experience of visiting a Seilin shop before joining the company. Has the impression you felt at that time changed since you actually joined the company?

HIGH! STANDARD:I wasn’t very aware of it before joining the company, but I was assigned to High! Standard at the time I joined and the sense of the customer service in that shop and the attitude the staff had of always taking care of the customers impressed me.

TOLL FREE:I agree about the attitude of the staff regarding customer service. I also found that there were so many things that I was learning for the first time when I actually started working, and that I hadn’t learned everything at the vocational school.I also remember being very impressed and surprised at how the staff created displays using their own original thinking and ideas.

JOURNEY:I was surprised that the displays were not being done under the direction of merchandisers or visual merchandising specialists.

Q:You were surprised when joining the company that the staff were involved in creating the store on their own, and now as managers of shops you are actually involved indoing this. Tell us about your aims for the shop you manage.

HIGH! STANDARD:At our High! Standard shop my current goal is to involve all of our staff in creating our store.I think that each of us has our own strengths and weaknesses. It’s important to become better at the things we’re weak in, but I feel that it’s important for stores of today to furtherexpand their strengths. Our store staff is madeup of teams, so we cover each other’s weak points and strive every day toward a common goal.

JOURNEY:I’m aiming to create a shop where our staff can enjoy their work and fashion. If our staff members aren’t having fun doing what they do, that won’t resonate with our customers.Our Journey storefront is really unique, and we have a mission to preserve a Japanese style house that was rebuilt in the early Showa era.In our quaint sort of shop we feature products suggested by our staff. We’re aiming to create a better store through a fusion of the space we’re in and the products we’ve selected.

TOLL FREE:We’re developing with secondhand clothing. I’d like us to make use ofthis as a strong point and create a Toll Free shop that can suggest unique and interesting fashion ideas to our customers. There’s something enjoyable about coordinating secondhand clothing in one’s fashion. It’s a different kind of fun that can’t be expressed with new clothing, and it expands the range of one’s fashion.It’s fun to do, and I want us to convey that.

Q:Of your three stores, Toll Free and High! Standard are shops with fairly long histories, so I think your customers probably have some image of your stores. What sort of image do you think your customers have of the shops you manage? And, what are you currently working on as store managers?

TOLL FREE:For customers who have been visiting us for decades, I’d like our shop’s focusto be one where those customers can always feel that while there’s a part of us that’s doing something new, there’s also a part that’s comfortably unchanging. Our original H.R.REMAKE brand is based on the theme of recycling secondhand clothing and remaking itinto other new products, and this is another new focus for us.

Q:You’re all working at shops that feature mainly imported products. So, there may be times when our company’s Seilin & Co. name is not immediately connected to the names of the stores, like at our Hollywood Ranch Market and Blue Blue shops. Are you having any issues with that?

HIGH! STANDARD:When I joined the company, I learned alot from the things customers said while I was serving them day to day, and that’s been helpful in creating our shop. Looking at us fromthe customer’s point of view, I feel that our three stores are recognized as members of ourSeilin & Co. group not because of the products we feature but because of the impression that our staff members make on them. I’m making use of this now when creating our shop while getting advice from our more experienced staff, such as about our product mix and how to interact with staff. But I realize that it’s harder and more time-consuming to make an impression from my own ideas. So, instead of trying to change everything, I’m gradually adding my ideas. That’s how I feel. Our foundation was created in such a way, and I think that it’s attractive.

Q:What are your candid feelings about this?

JOURNEY:Various types of businesses are opening stores one after another, and it’s difficult for so-called select shops to survive when our customers are looking for different sorts of things. I think it’s really important for them to be thinking: “I want to buy something there” or “I want to buy something from that staff person.” For that reason, we need to take the originality of our store to a deeper level. We need to keep our Journey shop’s focus firm so that our customers have the perception that “If you go there, you’ll find X, Y and Z products.” And from my point of view, with their longer history than our Journey shop, I feel that the High! Standard and Toll Free shops are unique stores. But I intend to create and promote the attractiveness of our Journey shop so we’re not falling behind those two.

Q:What kind of image do you have of other shops?

TOLL FREE:“Shops that mainly feature imported products” may all sound the same, but each of our stores has its own style. To be sure, we may be handling the same products, but I think that each of our stores makes its own uniquely different impression by offering tips on how to bring out a look and how to wear the apparel.

HIGH! STANDARD:There is an image that our Toll Free shop means secondhand clothing, but I think that image exists only within Seilin & Co. Thereare many other secondhand clothing stores in the Nakameguro area. Our Toll Free shop features not only one-of-a-kind secondhand items, but it’s a store where it’s fun to be able to choose from new products that also are constantly changing together with them. We have secondhand clothes, seasonal products, and basic products. And I feel that our space where these items all coexist makes for an interesting place.

TOLL FREE:My image of the Journey shop is a product mix that can suggest beautiful stylesto its customers. And, adding an accent to a basic style is a fun aspect of the Journey shop.The High! Standard shop features deeply rooted elements of America and the outdoors. I think that those stores are a bit different fromour Toll Free shop. But I intend to take care of our Toll Free shop’s image so that it’s keeping up with the others.

JOURNEY:Talking like this feels fresh because we don’t have many chances to exchange our opinions this way. And I also share feelings that are like what the others have expressed.

Q:We asked you all about your impressions of the differences of each store. Now, what do you feel are the similarities that the shops share?

JOURNEY:This has me thinking of our staff members’ experiences. I’ve learned that when they visited the Journey shop before joining the company, they thought “I want to work here!” And since they’ve applied and are now working here, I’ve found that they have similarfavorite things. And for our Journey shop’s image we’re oriented the same way.

TOLL FREE:On the other hand, what the Toll Free staff likes is different. But when it comes to getting more and more into their own favorite items, and also having an attitude about using them in the store, that is something that I think is similar at Journey andHigh! Standard.

HIGH! STANDARD:I feel that each of the Toll Free, High! Standard and Journey shops have their own particularly strong characteristics and individuality. The clothes that are selected from all over the world are all attractive products, there are various things to discover, and I feel that these items will expand the waypeople think about fashion.I think this is true for every Seilin & Co. shop, but one of the things that I feel that is interesting about High! Standard is the wide range of our customers’ ages. We have everyone from teenagers to people in their 70svisiting our store.

TOLL FREE:I agree about the variety in customers of all ages. We also have customerscoming to our shop looking for unusual products. I’m glad to have customers who think that, “If I go to Toll Free I might find what I want there.”

Q:What sort of challenges do you want to tackle in the future?

JOURNEY: I get the most enjoyment out of purchasing products that are a good fit for our Journey shop. When a customer is persuaded to purchase something, that’s when I’m motivated to do my best. I’m now in charge of purchasing products at my shop, but I’d like to handle a wider range of tasks in the future.

HIGH! STANDARD:While keeping us on focus at High! Standard, I’d like to take on more new challenges without any limitations. Every day is a challenge for me, in how I interact with ourstaff and when purchasing products.

TOLL FREE:One thing that I’d like to challenge in the future is participating in outside events in the community to increase an awareness of our Toll Free shop. Right now, we’re holding events in stores and providing information on our social media accounts so that more people can learn about us and visit the shop. There are many people who don’t know that Toll Free is a Seilin store. In the future, I’d like us to get out more in the community and have more people knowing about us. And we hope that such activities will lead to the growth of our shop. Privately, I actually like making things using a sewing machine, so my goal for the future is to get involved in things related to manufacturing.

Q:Last of all, what message would you give to anyone considering applying to work at Seilin & Co.?

TOLL FREE:This is a company where each and every person’s individuality can shine. No matter whether you have experience or not, you can discover and use your strong points while on the job. Staff at Seilin & Co. come from various backgrounds. If you like Seilin apparel, if you’re interested in fashion, or if you’d like to try a new challenge, I’d like to urge you to apply. I think that there’s a lot you can learn on the job.

HIGH! STANDARD:I feel that Seilin & Co. is an environment where you can challenge whatever it is that you want to do.I don’t think it matters if you’re a person who likes us just a little or if you’re just interested.We have stores with a variety of personalities, so I’m sure we have a place where you can shine.And I think that you’ll grow personally while working at your job here.

JOURNEY:If you’re passionate and enthusiastic, Seilin & Co. is a company that has an environment in which you can do whatever you want. There are so many things that you can think about and do at your shop.You’ll also have the support of many experienced staff members as well as from your coworkers.For sure, you’ll be doing a job so there’ll be many times when you might find your work difficult to do, but the feeling of accomplishment when you’re done is a great feeling, and you’ll feel yourself growing.To anyone passionate about what they want todo and who want to have a connection to theirown growth, I look forward to working with you.

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