I have been watching a new store under construction outside my bedroom window, elegant white modern structure with glass cube top floor. I finally went inside. It is a department store of sorts, with clothes as well as home goods, but with the most edited (and elegant) selection of merchandise.
In American it is about choice: We expect nothing fewer then 31 flavors of Baskin Robins ice cream. In Japan, it is about the comfort in not having to choose. I once was in a ramen shop with Japanese only menus. I asked the waitress (in Japanese) to choose something for me. She freaked out about having to make a decision, for the customer no less, asked a few coworkers their opinion, and continued to become more and more uncomfortable. I resorted to the close your eyes and point to something on the menu just to save the poor girl for her pain.
On one hand the Japanese want what everyone else has/wants (marketers know that if they can get the key 5% of the population to buy a product, they can then get 50% then 90% to buy it.) On the other hand stamp “limited edition” on anything and the Japanese will wait in line for the chance to purchase it. Many store’s product selection is very specific and deliberate. The store merchandisers are sometimes referred to as “Directors”. Only they know the “right” item in a product group to complete your life vision. They, in essence, direct the customer’s lifestyle. Never return to a store and expect to find the same selection, it turns over quickly to give people something new to buy.
A dozen or so Japanese businessmen in drab suits (the investors?) storm the store during construction. They looked so funny all in booties. Watching them climb the latter was positively hysterical.