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West Broadway gets a “ten Yuan” dollar store in disguise

April 17, 2017

New kit on the block. A dollar store for millennials with a yen for cheap style as it were.

A fancy sort of dollar store has popped up in the former location of the Kason mattress store at 1256 West Broadway Ave. And by “popped up” I mean the shelves and stock were going in on Thursday, April 13 and two days later the store was open for business.

The store is called Miniso and is self-styled as a “Japanese Designer Brand”.

It even looks like what you might imagine the Japanese equivalent of a dollar store would look like, if it was airlifted straight out of a suburb of Tokyo and deposited in the Fairview neighbourhood of Vancouver.

Calling itself a “Japanese Designer Brand” sounds better than “Japanese-themed Chinese dollar store”.

In fact, Miniso is the Chinese equivalent of a dollar store—which is referred to in China as a “10 Yuan store” (10 Yuan equals about $2).

Miniso happens to be designed to look like a Japanese dollar store chain, because, well, I guess “Japanese” sells better than “Chinese”—even to consumers in China.

A Chinese knockoff of a Japanese dollar store

The plush animals in this window look like dual Chinese-Japanese citizens to me.

The Wikipedia entry for Miniso explains that the “Chinese low-cost retailer and variety store chain” was co-founded in 2011 by Japanese designer Junya Miyake and Chinese entrepreneur Ye Guo Fu and is a subsidiary of Ye Guo Fu’s company Aiyawa.

And when video fashion blogger Maryrose visited a Miniso store in Guangzhou in January 2017 she said right off the bat that the chain and all its Japanese-looking products were made in China.

Still, Miniso markets itself as Japanese—in its branding, its signage and in its product styling and packaging. Its founders also continue stubbornly to claim that the chain is really Japanese; never mind that by 2016 the chain had over 1,000 stores in China and only four in Tokyo, Japan.

Even a week-old job posting for the new Vancouver Miniso store on the Indeed website perpetuates the marketing fantasy of a Japanese origin by describing Miniso as a “Global Fast Fashion Brand” and says that the chain has been “expanding globally since its establishment in Tokyo 2013” and that “it has opened more than 1,800 stores around the world within 3 years”.

Near as I can tell, Miniso is factory outlet and diversification of Ye Guo Fu’s vertically-integrated Guangzhou-based Aiyaya Co., Ltd. (founded in 2004). Aiyaya produces inexpensive fashion accessories and clothing for young women, which are sold in China through its self-named chain of over 1000 stores.

Miniso’s business model is described as “three high and three low”. The lows refer to low prices based on low cost and low margin while the three highs are: high efficiency, high technology and high quality.

According to the Indeed job posting, the “simple, natural and fashionable commodities’ of Miniso are  intended to be popular among people between the ages of 18 and 35—apparently the world over.

The posting goes on to exclaim that the chain has agreements in the works to expand into more than 40 countries and regions; that on average, it opens 80 to 100 stores monthly and that it hopes to have 6,000 stores worldwide by 2020.

This Chinese “Japanese” dollar store is a rather Swede idea

Superficial product and packaging design is a one time cost and it becomes incidental at the economies of scale which Miniso is working at. Yet, in the context of scale and supply chain management, it can add significant value in the eyes of budget-conscious consumers to otherwise average or mediocre-quality goods—just ask a certain Swedish budget home furnishings chain well-known for its design and packaging (if not always the durability of its goods).

Like IKEA has already done, Miniso, with its “three high and three low” business model of high Japanese style and low, low cost, is trying to create an entire product line with what I call “aspirational value”—these are products which allow people to feel that they can aspire to have nicer things than they can otherwise afford.

Which is the long-winded way of saying that I think Miniso is aiming to make itself the IKEA of dollar stores, especially for cash-strapped Milennials. Click the images to enlarge them.

Between Kason moving out and Miniso moving in, 1256 West Broadway hosted this young couple on March 30.

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5 Comments
  1. Thanks for the heads up. As much as possible I do not purchase anything from China if I can help especially food.

    • Very strange store to wrap my brain around in one way but in other ways it makes perfect sense–especially given the pride that some Chinese manufacturers take in knocking off iPhones, which are then sold by other Chinese entrepreneurs in flawlessly knocked-off Apple Stores.

      • This Apple was assembled in China designed by Apple in California. Is that the same as made from PRC?

      • In Apple’s defense, Steve Jobs actually resisted shipping production out of the U.S. and didn’t begin to really do it until 2004, considerably after many of Apple’s direct competitors. Tim Cook, by the way, was the person who oversaw that changeover. One of the first assemblers of iPhones was Korean Samsung (and we know how that worked out).

        Interestingly Foxconn is now looking to replace significant numbers of human workers with robots and Apple has been rumoured to be considering shifting an amount of assembly to India.

        The thing that really made Apple take production to Asia, as I understand, wasn’t labour costs at all but rather supply chain economics. As Apple increasingly begins to take control if its own chip-making, there’s no telling what will happen with production in years to come.

      • India I think is better than China. Personally, I do no trust the QC in China nor what other items that might add to the technology to infiltrate the system. Thank you.

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