Toward an Age of Design

The Ariake Showroom of Otsuka Kagu, Ltd. in Tokyo’s Odaiba district is four times as large as the Tokyo Dome baseball stadium. In this vast space, furniture and interior décor from around the world are on display. I was amazed to hear that on weekends as many as 3,000 people visit this showroom in a single day, and 70% of them actually make purchases. The Otsuka Kagu showroom really does have a firm grip over wealthy folk in the Tokyo metropolitan region.
  While the household electric appliance distribution industry is in the midst of intense price competition, Otsuka Kagu is developing a stable business without resorting to price cuts. How enviable! From the point of view of household electric appliance makers, that space is enough to make the mouth water. Electric appliance makers have made efforts to tap this sales route, but they have all fizzled out. And now, conversely, there is even a feeling of animosity toward Otsuka Kagu.
  When one considers the cutthroat competition that exists in the household electric appliance industry, though, perhaps this is only natural. It is quite intolerable that while Otsuka Kagu shows us the business model and satisfies customers, the industry is in complete disarray.
  Otsuka Kagu’s customer stratum really is something special. In extreme terms, it is probably no exaggeration to say that every wealthy person in Japan is a customer of the company. Furniture and interior décor are things that will last a lifetime. Since they will be used for at least a few decades, the wealthy especially want only the best. Indeed, they are going to turn up their noses at proposals that focus only on price. They want to carefully scrutinize good products from around the world.
  Anyway, in collaboration with our magazine, Home Theater Phile, an exhibition called “Homes with a Movie Theater: Interior Styling 2008” was held at Otsuka Kagu’s Ariake Showroom for nine days from May 3 to 11. Twenty-two “room scenes,” centering on the theme of “television as theater,” were set up on the different floors of the showroom to appeal to visitors.
  Over the nine-day period, 14,000 people visited the exhibition. Although the number of visitors dropped on weekdays, on the Saturdays and Sundays there was a full house. The 250 coordinators at the Ariake Showroom apparently can respond to 3,000 visitors a day. Well, I really did admire the expert way in which they handled the visitors with smiling faces. The 4,000 couples who visited the exhibition were all well-heeled, and, to my surprise, more than 70% of them made purchases while they were there.
  Partly because of the impact of events, television stands sold quite well. In addition, attention focused on the thin televisions of the cooperating companies--Hitachi, Sharp, Pioneer, and Matsushita. Indeed, I am told that there were a few customers who even declared that they would purchase Matsushita’s 103-inch model. One customer also purchased the whole interior that was proposed for a 30-tatami-mat living room in a villa in Karuizawa. I couldn’t help but be amazed at the awesomeness of the affluent.
  When thin televisions are seen as part of the interior, it seems to me that some consideration should be given to design. As well as the cooperating companies, a large number of engineers also visited the exhibition (there were 98 industry-related visitors), and no doubt they were given plenty of food for thought. It can be said with certainty that we have now entered an age in which televisions also are required to have a design that fits in well with a coordinated living space.