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Stockholm School of Economics (SSE)
Master thesis in Consumer Marketing Fall semester 2007

The Customer is God
(“Okyakusama wa kamisama desu”)
Japanese Service Culture in Clothing Stores

Abstract When was the last time you were positively surprised by the service in a clothing store? This thesis explores Japanese service management in clothing stores and makes a comparison with Sweden.The thesis is divided into two major areas: differences between (A) consumers and (B) service. For the analysis, both quantitative and qualitative methods have been used. The quantitative method includes organized mystery shopping in Tokyo and Stockholm and two surveys. The qualitative method includes comments from the mystery shoppers, own observations and interviews with professors andpractitioners. Results show that the Japanese customers have higher expectations upon the store and its staff compared to the Swedes. The Japanese place higher demands on the initiative and knowledge of the store personnel, viewing them as nothing short of fashion coordinators whereas the Swedes regard them more as just part of the store layout. The Japanese is also more contextoriented (a larger number offactors affect their purchase) whereas the Swedes have a more instrumental view of clothes shopping (no extra value added apart from clothes and price). Regarding service, the Japanese service is more detailed, socially driven and frequent compared to Swedish service. The Japanese create more of a total experience where positive time is raised and negative time reduced, welcoming the customer intothe store, guiding her through all the steps in the shopping experience and then thanking her for her visit. From our results, advice is given on how to learn from Japanese service management and enhance customer satisfaction, loyalty and profits.

20 credits Authors: Heléne Melin, 19945 & Karl Wikström, 19485 Supervisor: Magnus Söderlund Examinator: Micael Dahlén

First of all we would liketo thank our sponsors who made this thesis possible: Japanska Stiftelsen c/o Svenska Institutet, Sweden-Japan Sasakawa Foundation and Carl-Erik Levins Stiftelse. Second of all, we would like to thank our mystery shoppers Michiko, Noriko, Nozomi, Kanae, Kristina, Alessandra, Sofie, Rebecca,Tilda and Malin. Finally, we would like to thank our survey respondents, our Japanese translators and ourguides: Magnus Söderlund, Niclas “SPSS-gurun” Öhman, Micael Dahlen, Henrik “Luther” Sjödin, Fredrik Lange, Maria Konn & NMA, Cathrin Lange & Hanna Bengtsson, Reine Kase, and the Planning Department at Lowe Brindfors.

Index
1. INTRODUCTION – WHY JAPANESE STORES MATTER.............................................................................................1 1.2. BACKGROUND – How we arrived atour thesis focus..................................................................................................2 1.2. PROBLEM – 2 Aspects of the Japanese store.............................................................................................................3 1.3. DELIMITATION – Clothing stores and femaleconsumers.............................................................................................3 1.4. EXPECTED CONTRIBUTION – Changing our views on Japanese consumers and stores......................................................4 1.5. KEY TERMS....................................................................................................................................................5 2. THEORY – THE BACKGROUND TO OUR RESEARCHQUESTIONS.............................................................................6 2.1. A THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK– The nation of Japan and the store..............................................................................6 2.2. QUESTION A - A Comparison of Swedish and Japanese consumers...............................................................................10 2.3. QUESTION B - The characteristics of a Japanese...
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