|Type||Public (TYO: 7453)|
|Industry||Manufacturing, retail, cafe|
Number of locations
|Services||Residential Architectural design|
|Divisions||Dabbey Muji, Café Muji, Meal Muji, Muji Campsite, florist and home furnishing;|
Ryohin Keikaku Co., Ltd. (株式会社良品計画, Kabushiki-gaisha Ryōhin Keikaku) (TYO: 7453), or Muji (無印良品, Mujirushi Ryōhin) is a Japanese retail company which sells a wide variety of household and consumer goods. Muji's design philosophy is minimalist, and it places an emphasis on recycling, reducing production and packaging waste, and a no-logo or "no-brand" policy. The name Muji is derived from the first part of Mujirushi Ryōhin, translated as No-Brand Quality Goods on Muji's European website.
Products and businesses
Muji started with only 40 products in the 1980s. Some of their products include pens, pencils, notebooks, storage units, apparel, kitchen appliances, food items, and household care products. Muji has also created an automobile. Muji storefronts such as the one in New York are large and stocked with nearly every single product available. The primary business also includes Café Muji, Meal Muji, Muji Campsite, florist and home furnishing; the company has also engaged in architectural projects such as Muji House.
By the end of the 2000s, Muji was selling more than 7,000 different products. It is positioned as a "reasonably priced" brand, keeping the retail prices of products "lower than usual" by the materials it selects, streamlining its manufacturing processes, and minimising packaging.
Mujirushi (no-brand) Ryōhin (quality goods) began as a product brand of the supermarket chain The Seiyu, Ltd. in December 1980. The Mujirushi Ryōhin product range was developed to offer affordable quality products and were marketed using the slogan “Lower priced for a reason.” Products were wrapped in clear cellophane, plain brown paper labels and red writing. Mujirushi Ryōhin's drive to cut retail prices for consumers saw the company cutting waste by, for example, selling U-shaped spaghetti, the left-over part that is cut off to sell straight spaghetti.
In 1983, the first directly operated Mujirushi Ryōhin store opened. In 1985, Mujirushi Ryōhin started overseas production and procurement, started to place direct factory orders in 1986, and in 1987 Muji started to develop material globally.
In 1989, Ryohin Keikaku Ltd became the manufacturer and retailer for all Mujirushi Ryōhin products and operations, including planning, development, production, distribution and sale.
In 1991, Mujirushi Ryōhin opened its first international store in London.
In 1995, shares in “Muji Tsunan Campsite” were registered as over-the-counter shares of Japan Securities Dealers Association. In 1998, Ryōhin Keikaku listed on the second section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange. From 2001 onwards, it was listed on the first section. In April 2001 they issued the Muji Car 1000 (ムジ・カー 1000), a limited release of 1,000 badgeless and decontented Nissan Marches, only available online. Intended as an exercise to test their online marketing systems it was developed together with Nissan. The spartanly equipped little car (with the rear seat upholstered in vinyl, for instance) was only offered in "marble white".
The brand name "Muji" appears to have been used since around 1999.
Countries of operation
There are 505 International retail outlets as of November 2019[update], which include UK (12), Finland (1), France (7), Italy (8), Germany (7), Ireland (1), Sweden (1), Spain (6), Turkey (2), Poland (1), Portugal (1), United States (17), Canada (8), Hong Kong (19), Singapore (11), Malaysia (7), South Korea (30), Mainland China (264), Taiwan (51), Thailand (17), Australia (5), Indonesia (6), Philippines (5), Bahrain (3), Kuwait (2), Qatar (2), Saudi Arabia (4), UAE (5), Oman (1), India (4), Switzerland (1), , Vietnam (1).
In New York City, Muji supplies products to a design store at the Museum of Modern Art and maintains a flagship store. As of November 2018[update], there are 5 stores in Manhattan, one in northern New Jersey, one in Boston, 6 stores in California, and one in Portland. A small branch is at JFK International Airport, and another location in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, has been announced, but is yet to open.
Muji's no-brand strategy (generic brand) means that little money is spent on advertisement or classical marketing, and Muji's success is attributed to word of mouth, a simple shopping experience, and the anti-brand movement. Muji's no-brand strategy also means its products are attractive to customers who prefer unbranded products for aesthetic reasons, and because it provides an alternative to traditional branded products.
Muji has released a T-shirt with a rubber square on the chest for customers to design their own logo or message. Muji now sells paper products (such as notebooks) which can be personalized by customers using rubber stamps in-store at no charge. They also sell soft goods (such as T-shirts and hats) which can be computer embroidered to customer specifications, and picked up a few hours or days later.
Muji is known for its distinctive design, which is extended throughout its more than 7,000 products. Commentators have described Muji's design style as having mundanity, being "no-frills", being "minimalist", and "Bauhaus-style".
Muji product design, and brand identity, is based around the selection of materials, streamlined manufacturing processes, and minimal packaging. Muji products have a limited colour range and are displayed on shelves with minimal packaging, displaying only functional product information and a price tag. Detailed instructions included with the product are usually printed only in Japanese, although multilingual translations are starting to be included with some products.
Design approach and production
On its corporate website, Ryohin Keikaku Ltd rationalises its principles in terms of producing high quality products at "lower than usual" retail prices, true to the original Muji marketing slogan "lower priced for a reason". On its catalogue website Muji states that "at the heart of Muji design is the Japanese concept of Kanketsu, the concept of simplicity", aiming to "bring a quiet sense of calm into strenuous everyday lives". In an interview, Hiroyoshi Azami, President of Muji USA, described Muji's design culture as centred around designing "simple" products that are basic and necessary.
In its design, Muji also follows environmental guidelines, seeking to "restrict the use of substances that may have a significant impact on people or the environment" and "reduce waste by standardising modules, facilitating disassembly, and by reducing packaging".
The Muji design process resists technology for its own sake, and prototype designs are produced on paper rather than computers, so as not to encourage unnecessary detail. The manufacturing process is determined by the consumer's use of the product, which is a design priority. Finishes, lines, and forms are minimised for manufacturing ease.
Muji products are not attributed to individual designers. While Muji has stated that some of its products have been the works of famous international designers, it does not disclose who they are.
There are, however, some designers who made their involvement public. The notable are Naoto Fukasawa, Jasper Morrison, James Irvine, Sam Hecht, and Konstantin Grčić.
Muji participates in design collaborations with other companies. In 2001, Muji and Nissan Motors produced the Muji Car 1000. This fuel efficient, low-emission, and low-cost limited edition vehicle aimed to incorporate recycled materials wherever possible. Following Muji's no-brand strategy, the car had no branding logos.
Generally, Muji keeps its manufacturing sources private.
One notable exception is the brand's collaboration with Thonet, the oldest German furniture maker. In 2008, Muji and Thonet announced their cooperation to produce two lines of minimalist furniture. The first was bentwood chairs designed by James Irvine in homage to the iconic No. 14 chair of Thonet. The second was steel tubular chairs and desks designed by Konstantin Grčić. Roland Ohnacker, managing director of Thonet, stated that the aim was "to help 18 to 35 year-olds enter the Thonet brand world". From Spring 2009, these furniture are available at selected Muji stores.
The first art director of Muji was Ikko Tanaka. Tanaka is credited with developing the Muji concept together with Kazuko Koike (marketing consultant), and Takashi Sugimoto (interior designer). Tanaka articulated the Muji vision and appearance, and he provided ideas and prototypes that visualized the design strategy. In 2001, Kenya Hara, an internationally recognized graphic designer and curator, took over as art director. He stated that:
"I found that the company was at a standstill with the original idea, 'No design', which was advocated at its inception. They also had more than 250 outlets and sold more than 5,000 items, including products that deviated from the initial Muji concept or were low cost, but of substandard quality."
Kenya Hara has been credited as key figure in further developing Muji. Hara has a background in graphic design, hence had experience in designing packaging and corporate identities. Beyond that, he is credited with significantly moulding the Muji brand and design identity. In an interview in 2005, Hara stated that "Everything in the world has become an object of interest for me. Everything is designed." Hara has published books on design philosophy, most recently Designing Design.
Design awards and competition
In 2006, Muji held its first international design competition, “Muji Award 01”. In 2007, Chen Jiaojiao published a book on Muji design and brand entitled "Brands A-Z: Muji".
The Berlin correspondent for The New York Times reports that the Japanese call Muji-fans “Mujirers”. Muji's international stores and The Muji Catalogue mainly retail Muji home consumer goods, furniture and clothing, while Muji Japan sells in a wide range of sectors, including food, bicycles, camp sites, phones, yoga, florists, cafes, and concept houses.
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