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DIALOGUE: Takeshi Nakane, General Manager, AEON Mall Tianjin Zhongbei
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altLocated along the No. 2 Metro Line at Caozhuang Station, Zhongbeizhen, Xiqing District, AEON Mall Tianjin Zhongbei opened on 28 April. It’s the second city complex shopping centre in Tianjin invested by AEON Group of Japan. As the top retail enterprise in Japan, and also a Top 500 company, AEON Group has over 100 subsidiary companies. Recently, Business Tianjin got a chance to talk with Takeshi Nakane about AEON Mall Tianjin Zhongbei and their goals in Tianjin.

Tell us a bit about AEON Group.

JUSCO Co., Ltd. was established in 1970 through a business partnership between three local companies, Okadaya, Futagi, and Shiro. On 21 August 2001, JUSCO Co., Ltd. changed its name to AEON Co., Ltd. Then, on 21 August 2008, AEON made a transition to a pure holding company structure with AEON Co., Ltd. as its core, and the retail business was transferred to AEON Retail Co., Ltd. AEON constantly strives to be innovative and hold tight to the “Customer-First” philosophy as we continue working to enhance our customers’ lives.

Tell us about AEON Mall Tianjin Zhongbei.

AEON Mall Tianjin Zhongbei is a multi-functional shopping centre with 3 floors, a site area of approximately 95,000 sqm, a total floor area of approximately 130,000 sqm, commercial area of 90,000 sqm, and a parking capacity of 3,700 cars. There is one AEON supermarket, one Children’s Paradise, a wide variety among 150 trendy specialty stores, an international food court, a SuNing appliance store, Hengxin furniture shop, a large cinema, and a video game city. All those facilities provide a wide range of shopping and entertaining possibilities.

Why did you choose Xiqing Zhongbei Zhen as the location for a second mall in Tianjin?

Firstly, Zhongbei Zhen government invited us to set up here. Secondly, according to Tianjin’s population statistics, Tianjin’s suburban population and consumption capacity has increased rapidly year after year. Compared with shopping centres in the city’s core, the self-driving shopping concept will be the trend of the future. A suburban style shopping centre has many advantages and more space to develop so it can include features like a large parking area.

Who are your target customers?

We have two groups of target customers. One group is those families who have kids. We have many clothing brands for children and a large Children’s Paradise which has many fancy but safe toys. Parents can leave their children to play by themselves and enjoy some leisure time. The other group is young girls who love fashion and cool clothing. We have introduced some Japanese style clothing brands which are very popular among young girls.

It’s a bit difficult to attract those over 60 years old. We hope they come to our mall to buy gifts for their sons, daughters, or grandchildren. The youth can also invite their grandparents to have lunch or dinner at our food court and enjoy a chance to get together.

Online shopping is very popular nowadays. What is the impact of online shopping for traditional shopping centres?

altWith the popularity of online and TV shopping in China, traditional shopping centres need to strengthen their service aspects. “Smiling service” is the most important thing for us. We will try our best to get customers to believe our staffs’ sincere and friendly working attitude is part of our corporate culture. We push our staff to work happily, so that they can pass the same feeling along to our customers. We are confident our smiling service will keep our customers returning again and again.

What are key factors to retain customers: products, services, or something else?

Our shopping centre attracts customers due to its products and services. The most important thing is the environment of the shopping centre. We need to keep good relationships with our customers and listen to their suggestions or comments to improve our services.

AEON held its Tree Planting Ceremony at the end of March at the Zhongbei Shopping Centre. Why did AEON organise this activity?

At the opening of new shopping centres and other facilities, AEON has been planting and nurturing indigenous saplings with local customers under the “AEON Hometown Forests Program” since 1991. So far, AEON has planted a total of over 9.5 million trees around the world through these tree planting activities. We would like to promote awareness of protecting the earth to our customers via this activity. Many parents and their children joined this tree planting ceremony. We hope those children can grow with the trees they planted and after many years when they come back to see those trees, they will have many good memories. That’s a wonderful thing!

What are the goals and marketing strategy for AEON Mall Tianjin Zhongbei in the next five years?

According to our plan, we will open 5 AEON Malls in Tianjin. The first mall, AEON Mall Tianjin TEDA opened in 2010. AEON Mall Tianjin Zhongbei is the second mall in Tianjin. The third AEON Mall Tianjin YouYiNanLu is under construction now. I hope after five years our sales revenue can double. To realise this goal, we need to ensure our customers come again and again. We hope we can retain our customers with our great services and creative promotional ideas. We will keep working on it, as it is a long term goal.

Do you provide free shuttle bus service to customers?

Yes. We have 6 free shuttle bus routes, the No.1 route is from Tianjin West Railway Station, No.2 is from Dongjiangjing, No.3 is from Huayuan, No.4 is from Zhongbeizhen, No.5 is from Yangliuqing, and No.6 is from Zhangjiawo.

What is your hobby and how do you spend your spare time?

I have many hobbies but I am not so good at many of them. I like playing golf, table tennis, fishing, and travelling. I go out with my family to explore and learn more about Tianjin on the weekends.
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