Business & Real Estate

Japanese discount store giant off to fast start in Roseville

Shoppers search for bargains Tuesday at the recently opened Daiso Japan in the Westfield Galleria at Roseville shopping mall. Daiso is considered a “Japanese dollar store,” stocking thousands of items, most selling for $1.50 or less. Many items are produced in-house. A massive worldwide discount retailer with 2,800 branches in Japan and another 600 elsewhere, Daiso is a relatively small player in California. But that is changing. Thousands showed up for the new store’s opening day last month.
Shoppers search for bargains Tuesday at the recently opened Daiso Japan in the Westfield Galleria at Roseville shopping mall. Daiso is considered a “Japanese dollar store,” stocking thousands of items, most selling for $1.50 or less. Many items are produced in-house. A massive worldwide discount retailer with 2,800 branches in Japan and another 600 elsewhere, Daiso is a relatively small player in California. But that is changing. Thousands showed up for the new store’s opening day last month. aseng@sacbee.com

The operators of Daiso Japan stores insist that they are not offended by being called “the Japanese dollar store.”

“Not at all,” said Yoshi Murata, senior vice president of Daiso’s U.S. operations. “I think we’re most different from the dollar store you find in the United States.”

A stroll through the recently opened Daiso store in the Westfield Galleria at Roseville shopping mall confirms that.

Rows of colorful merchandise – Daiso house brands and other Asian-made products, many of them from China – fill the nearly 4,000-square-foot store on the mall’s second floor. In this relatively small space, some 2,500 products are rotated on a constant basis.

Most items are priced at $1.50. Saying that they run the gamut is an understatement.

In the Roseville store – Daiso’s first in the Sacramento area – merchandise includes “stainless steel soap” designed specifically to deodorize the hands, very handy if you’ve been prepping fish for dinner; plastic bottles and containers of all shapes and sizes; a plastic food bag sealer (two AA batteries required); drink mugs of various colors and variations (a small spoon fits into the handle of one) and solar-powered figurines that will wave at you for as long as they have access to sunlight.

I think they have every gadget … the kind of unique present you can give to the person who has everything, without spending a fortune.

Beverly Royster, Daiso Japan shopper

That’s the very short list. Packed neatly on shelves are stationery, baskets, hair brushes, socks, slippers, gardening tools, pet supplies, food, snacks, cleaning products, kitchen tools, sweets, party supplies, specialty gifts, bathroom staples and seasonal items.

“I can’t believe this place. It’s the most incredible store I’ve ever seen. I haven’t seen anything else like it,” said Roseville housewife Tammy James, strolling Daiso’s aisles last week. “I’d never heard of (Daiso). My neighbor friend told me about and said I had to go. … She was right.”

Daiso is new to the Sacramento area, but it’s a global powerhouse.

Daiso is under the ownership umbrella of Daiso Industries Co. Ltd., in Hiroshima, Japan. It oversees more than 2,800 stores in Japan and more than 600 internationally, including sites in Canada, Mexico, Australia, Brazil and the Middle East.

So-called “100-yen shops” are common in Japan. That’s a fair representation of a dollar store as the current value of 100 yen is about 90 cents. Daiso’s U.S. business cards also tout it as the “Japanese valued variety store.”

Murata said there are about 45 Daiso stores in California, most of those sprinkled throughout the Bay Area and Los Angeles. Murata calls California a growth market. His base of operations is Daiso California LLC in Hayward.

Murata said more Daiso stores will be coming to the Golden State, and the company is looking to add another Sacramento site, reportedly one significantly larger than the Roseville store.

Based on the opening in Roseville, there’s room for more Daiso in the area.

The Feb. 27 opening included giveaways, but the opening date was accompanied by modest advance advertising. Yet on opening day, a crowd estimated at 800 to 1,000 stood in line when it was time to open the doors. Mall officials had to set up Disneyland-ride-style rope lines to handle the mob, and Daiso had to control the number of shoppers entering the store at a given time to avoid an overcrowding crisis.

That day, Daiso estimates that 6,000 to 7,000 passed through the small store.

Murata believes that a fair number of opening-day customers came from the Bay Area, or were local residents who previously had shopped at Daiso stores in the Bay Area. “They know who we are,” he said.

Business remained fairly brisk during the weekdays last week. On Monday and Tuesday, about half the customers in the Roseville Daiso store in the afternoon were Asian.

“It’s wonderful having (Daiso) so close,” said Connie Ito of Roseville. “Yes, I have been to stores in San Francisco. “They have so many things for a good price. I’m familiar with many of the (brands), so it’s perfect for me.”

Bon Jovi Casilang, the 27-year-old corporate assistant manager whose duties include setting up the Roseville store, agreed that a number of Daiso’s customers to date have been Asian, “but we’re reaching out to more people, more cultures that don’t know about us.”

That effort includes semantics. While the Roseville store is technically under Daiso Japan – including the logos on the store’s shopping bags – Casilang said the store is simply known as Daiso “so it can be for everyone … and not just be (associated) with Japan.”

As for Daiso’s fast start in Roseville, Casilang said “a lot of it travels by word of mouth, one person speaking to another and so on.”

Granite Bay resident Brenda Wong agreed, saying, “I’m the third person on my block to come here, and I heard about it from them. I didn’t even know about the opening until they told me about it.”

Casilang believes business would remain brisk even if the Roseville store had twice the space. “I could probably have 8,000 or 10,000 square feet,” he said.

Casilang said the Roseville store employs about 18 and is still looking to hire. He said one of the biggest challenges so far has been keeping the shelves stocked with fast-moving merchandise. Even though the shelves looked packed last week, “we need to bring out more, because a lot of things have been bought.”

The store’s second weekend of operation in early March brought more crowds, and Casilang believes that pattern will continue.

“Last weekend, we had to call security and ask them if they had more of those ropes” for crowd control, he said.

Sacramentan Beverly Royster was among those in line on opening day and came back for a second visit last week. She believes Daiso’s allure lies in its eclectic mix of unique items produced by companies not familiar to most U.S. consumers.

“I think they have every gadget … the kind of unique present you can give to the person who has everything, without spending a fortune. I’ve seen so many things that I’ve never seen in other stores, even import stores,” Royster said. “And the things they have are useful, for storage or parties or special dinners … I’ve actually bought some things that I have no idea what I’m going to do with, but I know that I will use them someday.”

Mark Glover: 916-321-1184, @markhglover

Daiso Japan at a glance

Origins: Started as a street vending operation in 1972, selling discounted household items; the company was incorporated in 1977

Global headquarters: Daiso Industries Co. Ltd. in Hiroshima, Japan

California connection: Daiso California LLC, based in Hayward

Store branches: More than 2,800 in Japan, more than 600 in 25 other nations and about 45 in California.

Niche: Seller of thousands Asian-made, discounted household items, from cleaning products to everyday staples, many priced at around $1.50; internationally, Daiso is known as the 100-yen store (about 90 cents based on the current yen-dollar conversion rate)

Products: About 20,000 varieties sold in the United States

Annual revenue: More than $3 billion in Japan alone

More information: daisoglobal.com

Source: Daiso Japan

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