International products from Japan are a big hit in Toronto
Miniso is among the Japanese franchises that have made its way to the heart of Toronto
BY: JESSICA LAM
If you stand right in Yonge and Dundas Square, you’ll see a huge sign for the Uniqlo store that opened up just two years ago. Go west along Dundas Ave. from there and you’ll see a Muji store on your right. Head into the Eaton Centre and on the bottom floor, you’ll find Miniso.
Rewind about five years and you wouldn’t have been able to find any of these Japanese franchises in the heart of Toronto. So, what has changed in recent years to make Japan’s influence more prominent in Toronto?
In Toronto, it’s easier to be open to different cultures. The growing popularity of Asian products in Western culture coupled with Torontonians’ interest in exploring traditional Japanese culture has led to a change on Toronto’s shopping scene.
There’s definitely something about the international products from Japanese stores that are drawing people in. The director of Miniso Canada, Steven Lu, says it’s probably because of the trends. People see these products being used and reviewed on Youtube or on TV, and it peaks the interest of Canadians, Lu says.
Miniso was co-founded by Japanese designer Miyake Junya and Chinese entrepreneur Ye Guofu. Its headquarters are in China, but the store is taking over the world. According to the Miniso Canada website, Miniso’s goal is to have 6,000 stores open globally by 2020. This is compared to a retail franchise such as H&M who has had around 37 new stores open in the last eight years, according to Statista.com.
The products at Miniso are known to be good quality at good prices. They range from household items, cosmetics, stationary, toys, etc.
Nobi Nakamura, the program officer at the Japan Foundation in Toronto, says that Canadians like to immerse themselves into other cultures.
“The Japanese demographic is pretty small [in Canada],” Nakamura said. Because of this, the Foundation’s focus isn’t so much about the Japanese demographic, it’s more to share with other Canadians. Nakamura’s expertise is in film, visual, and audio programs at the Foundation. He chooses Japanese films that screen at the theatre room right next to the Japan Foundation library and observes people of all ethnic backgrounds going to enjoy a bit of Japanese culture. This is just one example of how Japan’s influence has made its way into Toronto and has piqued Torontonians’ interest.
Cybelle Marie Melodias is a beauty blogger and YouTuber from the Philippines. She makes videos for her Youtube channel called ‘beautyandtheblogxc” where she makes videos about beauty, cosmetics, and shopping hauls. One of her favourite stores to shop at is Miniso because of the affordability and the quality of the products sold.
“I love that they continuously improve the quality of their products.”
-CYBELLE MARIE MELODIAS
“I love visiting their store even if it’s just to browse to see what’s new because they always have interesting things for sale,” Melodias said. “I love their innovative products the most, and I love that they continuously improve the quality of their products.”
Meanwhile, Japanese products could be appealing here in Toronto as well because they differ in style and aesthetic from Western products. With today’s online world where bloggers from around the world such as Melodias can make videos and share their country’s products with each other, Japanese products were bound to make it here to Canada, where Lu says more locations are opening up across the country.
The growing popularity of the products in Canada and Canadians’ eagerness to embrace the Japanese culture has led to Miniso carefully planning the look of each Miniso location in Canada.
In Toronto alone, Miniso stores have opened up at all the main malls. Each area of the GTA has a Miniso that people in the area can go to.
To the east, Scarborough Town Centre has just opened one. In the North York, Willowdale, and Thornhill areas, three locations have been opened including one in Promenade Mall and one in Centrepoint Mall. A little more north, Hillcrest Mall in Richmond Hill has one. To the northeast, Markville Mall in Markham and to the Northwest, Vaughan Mills in Vaughan each have one newly opened. And to the north, all the way in Newmarket, a Miniso has been opened in Upper Canada Mall.
“The demographic is really different place by place. So when we’re talking about how to select the items for specific areas we should be really careful and we should understand what is the local demand from that particular area,” Lu said. “Right now, we’re doing lots of research and doing some tests as well to see what are the suitable items we can put in a particular area.”
Miniso Canada has a research team that is sent out to collect data from multiple Miniso locations in an attempt to see what is most popular and what products are in most demand from each store.
For Canada Day, Miniso is stocked with items that incorporate the local Canadian culture that is for the Canadian market only.
“Other countries don’t carry similar items to what we have on Canada Day,” Lu said. “This year we aim to have around 55-70 stores in Canada nationwide. I think we should fully engage with the Canadian market and embrace the culture of Canada and it should enable us to capture more local demand from the Canadians.”
Photography by: Jessica Lam