Asia: changing places. At pace.

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Last modified on 16/01/2018

As I’m discovering. And two leading examples of dynamism and fast moving cultures are Tokyo and Seoul. Our key destinations for our forthcoming study tour.

A trip which will take between 20 and 30 senior retail property professionals on journey of a lifetime. With representation from developers, investors, agents and analysts I wanted to make sure we had an itinerary that really hits the mark with key insights into recent trends and developments and of course, how this affects their commercial impact.

With this in mind, we’re going to experience-first hand, their constantly evolving retail environment including adaptation to space, both in terms of small footprints and in a society that wants the whole experience – a culture that enjoys leisure activity, out. How in this crowded market retail destinations can really stand out and be different? How do they respond to the economic climate? And of course, we couldn’t visit Asia without key insights into retail technology integration – these are cities that were wired early. All key talking points, so why not join our conversation?

Seoul and Tokyo are two cultures obsessed with brands, digitally savvy and constantly on the prowl for the ‘next big thing’ in anything from food and beverage to leisure and retail placemaking.  Both cities however, have their own unique characters and styles. Tokyo is all about elevation of retail spaces, a strong focus on design, impeccable service and customer journeys, it’s unique and inspiring but disruptive and a learning of what can be achieved in a small areas of space. In contrast to Tokyo, Seoul is about mass market, ease and practicality for the consumer, memorable shopping destinations which embraced the “wired” world early, with technological innovations from omni-channel to the blend of the physical/digital experience. There’s certainly a lot more to Seoul than the South Korean pop music hit Gangham Style, introduced to us in 2012!  And after three...


It is these contradictions which will make our five-day tour so fascinating, positively challenging and great for debate at our networking events.

I’ve literally packed our five days with as much as I can with key insights into retail and leisure properties, catering concepts, mixed use districts, digital technology, individual concept stores and brand flagships.  From the fluid like architecturally unique House of Dior (French architect Christian de Portzamparc’s vision was to encompass the brand in the building), to the new mega mall “shopping theme park” Starfield Hanam to the massive redevelopment of Tokyo Station including several hotels and department stores integrated at all points. I’m also looking forward to seeing the co-branded store of Bic Camera and Uniqlo (“BICQLO”) – a conceptual development to share the burden of prohibitive rents. 

The majority of Tokyo’s luxury brand stores are located in Ginza, an area that is also currently undergoing a significant urban redevelopment project to house a new large scale mixed use facility. Opening in April 2017, GINZA SIX will be the home of 241 brands, large-scale offices, a cultural facility, tour bus bay, and a rooftop garden. As the ongoing threat of natural disasters in Tokyo is ever-present, the development has been designed with this in mind and will also provide designated areas for commuters who are unable to return home in the case of a natural disaster. A modern example of focussing on community needs and adapting to the every-changing environment. 


Of course both cities are renowned for their love of food, and I for one, being a foodie fanatic myself am very excited to experience the local food and drink offer.

TokyoSeoul3Tokyo offers a huge variety of eateries and not just the fantastic sushi bars and other Japanese specialty restaurants. One place I’ll be looking forward to visiting is Roppongi Hills and Tokyo Midtown, mixed-use developments creating new public spaces, incorporating cultural centres and an extensive F&B offer.

Seoul is also up there as a food lover’s paradise. There’s Gourmet 494 a luxury food court and organic supermarket in the basement of the Galleria Department Store, however, I’m very excited about our visit to Some Sevit, perhaps better known as Floating Islands; promoted as the World’s first water culture complex, home to an array of restaurants and cafes. 

We won’t just take in major developments though.  Some of the best cuisine is popping up in the “hipster” backstreets. This exciting trend of food and drink growth often means the mainstream stores follow, and the backstreets become main streets, resulting in higher rents. This has led to the operators branching out around the area, creating some really unique street food destinations.  Continuing and driving the momentum; all part of our adventure!


But, sadly for me, it can’t all be about food, and as we eat our way through the cities, we’ll be taking in some really innovative and large scale developments.

TokyoSeoul2Along with Lotte World Mall and COEX Mall in Seoul – two huge shopping destinations, we’ll also be exploring a BoxPark style market, Common Ground, made up of 200 shipping containers - the largest container shopping centre in the world.

Plus, we won’t be forgetting to pop into some of the concept stores, Park-Ing in Tokyo - a selection of shops including some of Japan’s hottest apparel brands, and the Samsung D’Light Experience – an amalgamation of the words "digital" and "light" - this brand flagship leads consumers to a whole new lifestyle through digital technology. A conceptual use of technology including intelligent customer profiling and a whole virtual reality section. I’m hoping this store will show us why digital is so embedded and visible in Seoul since they embraced the digital revolution at the outset. 

There’s just not enough space in this blog to talk about everything we’re going to be seeing, so perhaps you should come along too and experience it for yourself! 

Big cities changing places.  At pace!  And I for one can’t wait to see it upfront and personal! 


Beth Wilson
Head of Events

Join us as we tour these two dynamic cities, click here for details