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Friday, April 21, 2017

Yodobashi Camera - an Appliance Megastore

ヨドバシカメラ

Yodobashi Camera is one of Japan's biggest electronics and home appliance retail chains.

Apple Store, Yodobashi Akiba, Akihabara, Chiyoda ward, Tokyo.
The Apple store in Yodobashi Akiba
There are 24 branches of Yodabashi Camera, about half of them in the greater Tokyo area, and the rest in big population centers throughout Japan, going as far north as Sapporo in Hokkaido and as far west as Hakata in Kyushu.

The camera section on the 3rd floor of the Akihabara branch of Yodobashi Camera.
Cameras in Yodobashi Camera, Akihabara

Yodobashi Camera began in 1960 as a camera store, when a camera cost months and months worth of the average salary. Yodobashi Camera's strategy was to open stores right next to major stations in the greater Tokyo area and to stock as many products as possible, rapidly expanding into home appliances in general. Yodobashi Camera is all about accessibility: accessibility to stores: near stations and open from 9:30am to 10pm, and accessibility to products, the range of which now covers pretty much everything.

Yodobashi Akiba Akihabara, Tokyo.
Yodobashi Akiba, Akihabara
This strategy very much paid off, and Yodobashi Camera is now a giant, especially in the Tokyo area where shopping for appliances almost necessitates a visit to Yodobashi Camera to compare prices - whether in person or online.

Yodobashi Camera salespersons at work.
Selling cameras at Yodobashi Camera
Online is Yodobashi Camera's new retail frontier. Last September Yodobashi Camera started a new online service called Yodobashi Extreme that, in the 23 Tokyo wards and a few areas just outside them, directly competes with Amazon Japan's Prime Now.

Information counter, Showa-dori Entrance, Yodobashi Akiba.
Multimedia Akiba Store information counter, Showa-dori Entrance
Prime Now gets goods to customers within an hour if they spend more than 2,500 yen and don't mind paying an 890 yen freight charge, or within two hours freight-free.

Yodobashi Extreme's delivery time frame is two and a half hours - not as fast as Amazon Prime Now - but the customer can follow the progress in real time online, delivery is always free, and the range of goods available on Yodobashi Extreme is currently much, much bigger than on Amazon Prime Now. The two companies are therefore locked in an online battle for Japan's capital city. Time will tell if Tokyo has room for both.

A Gold Point Card from Yodobashi Camera
Yodobashi Camera Gold Point Card
Meanwhile, Yodobashi Camera's brick and mortar stores, at least in Tokyo, seem to be constantly thronged. The service at Yodobashi Camera is hit and miss. Staff there often seem routinely overworked and distracted, and can often be more curt and less cooperative than typical Japanese store staff. However, Yodobashi Camera stores don't pretend to be boutiques, and the range of goods available there makes a visit to Yodobashi Camera almost mandatory if you want a hands-on comparison between the goods on your wish list.

Prices at brick-and-mortar Yodobashi Camera stores are usually higher than what you can find online, but the store's bonus points system (10% of purchase if paying by cash, 8% with credit card) reduces the gap considerably.

Showa-dori Entrance, Multimedia Akiba Store, Yodobashi Camera, Akihabara.
Showa-dori Entrance, Yodobashi Camera, Akihabara, Tokyo

Yodobashi Akiba is my local Yodobashi Camera branch, in Akihabara. The Multimedia Akiba Store is a massive building with 9 above-ground floors full of merchandise and 6 underground parking floors. Everything is sold here in the way of gadgets and appliances. There is even a restaurant floor (8F) and a golfing and batting center on the top (9F) floor.

Exit 3 of Hibiya Subway Station, Akihabara, at left, and the Showa-dori Exit of JR Sobu line Akihabara station at right. Entrance to Yodobashi Akiba off to right.
Subway (left) and JR (right), with Showa-dori Entrance of Yodobashi Akiba off to the right

If you go to Yodobashi Akiba by train, the Showa-dori Exit of JR Akihabara Station brings you directly to the Showa-dori Entrance of the store. Exit 3 of the Hibiya Subway Station will also bring you out at Yodobashi Akiba's Showa-dori Entrance. (Read more about Akihabara shopping.)

There is also a massive Yodobashi presence in Shinjuku, which is where the company's headquarters are located.

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