Sunday, September 16, 2018

Casio Visit Day 1 - Part 2

Day one continued with visits to several specialized Casio G-Shock retail outlets. 

I live in the Metro Boston area and work in Boston proper.  And if I am being honest and objective?  The G-Shock is a very popular item on area wrists, but not quite so easy to track down in it's retail environment.  To be very clear, we (media types) were joined by three very successful retailers on this visit to Japan, and these guys sell a LOT of G-Shocks, but Boston-proper, for whatever reason, is a little bit limited in terms of outlets.  But having seen and experienced both the G-Shock boutique and a few "shop-within-shop" concepts I have to say that maybe Boston could benefit from a wee, little G-Shock pop-up to test the waters.   
note to Casio, I know the perfect location on Newbury street ; ) 

We have all seen shop within shop concepts, particularly with the big dogs from SWATCH, LVMH and Richemont.  But very seldom do we see a more affordable brand hop on the board and paddle out to these deep waters.  But to Casio's credit, they have done something very special with their concepts.

The author, about to get "G-Shocked"
Visit any uni-brand boutique, and it is not going to be able to hold absolutely everything available.  That is just a fact of life.  But to Team Casio's credit, they have created a very welcoming space with a fairly comprehensive selection of what is available both in their boutique, as well as their store within store concepts.

But G-Shock has grown and evolved beyond watches.  It has grown, in many ways, beyond merely a Casio brand to its own identity.  But it is even more than that.  G-Shock has become something of a cultural touchstone for several generations and continues to attract new customers from virtually every demographic.  I am a perfect case study of this.  As I said, the somewhat thin population of G-Shock retail outlets in Boston proper had really not prepared me for the sensory, visceral onslaught that I felt when wandering through these G-Shock specialist locations.  And it became very clear to me that G-Shock is not merely a brand, it has become something of a movement.

Every movement needs an icon, and G-Shock has a few of them.  

G-Shock men, both small...

The author, mid-sentence
and large protect and promote the spirit of the G-Shock.  It is a bit of a whimsical idea, but I can tell you that on our travels, these G-Shock men were probably the most photographed items.  And in many ways that sums up what (for me at least) is the spirit of G-Shock.  Very serious, very durable, but still fun.  You could almost see the G-Shock man staring in his very own action film.  And the spirit of fun is also found in the bright, colorful range of offerings.  

More than a few requests were made to purchase the small G-Shock mascots, all were (politely) declined.

What several of us were on the hunt for was what I have come to refer to as the G-Shock unicorn, the GMW B5000 -

Courtesy of G-Shock

And in answer to this query we were told:
"Yes, it was available.  Yes, it might still be available.  No, we do not have it."  
ごめんなさい (sorry)

And that is one very positive thing to say about getting disappointed in Japan, everyone is really, really polite about it and downright apologetic for your disappointment.  

Fast forward to my last day in Tokyo, I walked to the department stores to check their watch collections on the off-chance that I might get lucky and find one of these digital, steel bijouxs.  And...

I DID!  

In a certain department store, right above Shinjuku station, I found the rare and elusive GMW B5000 in its natural environment - the display case!  I crept up slowly, so as not to startle it, and made my enquiry -

この費用はいくらですか  (How much is this?)

and was somewhat surprised to hear that it was 60,000 Yen (about $535 US, not including the tax).  Now to a collector, who is seriously trying to lay hands to something, a $35 - $45 up-charge is really not such a big deal.  And in hindsight, it might be that this is the established retail price for Japan.  I took a moment to remind myself that I was in Japan, not at home, and things worked differently here.  And after about 15 minutes of back and forth, I had made up my mind to bite the bullet and pull the trigger.  So I said okay, I'll take it!  
And then I heard those dreaded words -

ごめんなさい (sorry)

It seemed that this particular item was simply there for display, and that while I could indeed purchase one, I would not be receiving it for several months.   And then I had to smile, and laugh to myself.  Of course!  This is a highly sought-after, highly desired item.  It made perfect sense for them to keep a display model in the case, and it makes perfect sense that if you really want one, you should be willing to place your order and get in the queue.  Desire, when properly managed, is perhaps one of the strongest marketing tools out there!  So well done G-Shock and very well-done to that department store watch department!  It worked, I now have a (rather intense) desire for that watch.  

And on a larger scale, I think that this is something that Casio and the G-Shock team have figured out better than most brands out there.  For a watch or brand to take hold of the consumer, it is not necessarily about luxury, it is not necessarily about "artisanal" craftsmanship.  It's about desire.  In truth, Casio could pass the word to G-Shock and say that seeing as demand is so great, let's quadruple the production of this one model.  That would be a very Swiss, very American solution.  The result would be a loss of the very thing that has made this particular model so sought-after, its scarcity.  But the folks at G-Shock understand that it is not necessarily such a bad thing to have a limited supply of something that everyone wants.  So I will wait, as patiently as I can.

More to come, stay tuned!


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