Famed Japanese discount store Don Quijote is opening its first store in Singapore in Orchard Central mall tomorrow.
The store, which will operate round the clock, will be called Don Don Donki because a Don Quijote restaurant already exists here in Dempsey Road.
However, the double-storey 1,397 sq m Singapore outlet promises to have the same range and eclectic mix of products as its outlets in Japan.
The brand is known for offering a wide variety of made-and designed-in-Japan products - everything from toilet paper to second-hand Rolex watches - under one roof, often at low prices. A 140g tube of Whip Premium face wash, for instance, costs $3.90 (an Ebay listing for the product has a price of $17.49). There is also a wide variety of snacks from Japan, including rice cakes and mochi starting at 90 cents a packet.
Founded in 1978 by Takao Yasuda, the brand now has 368 stores in Japan, Hawaii and the United States and rang in close to 828.8 billion yen (S$10 billion) in annual sales for the fiscal year ended on June 30 this year.
Aiming for an everything-under-one-roof-type concept, the brand is also known to give autonomy - for product selection and pricing - to individual stores, meaning that stores in different areas often sell items that are best suited to the needs of its customers.
The store opening here is in partnership with Hokkaido Marche, which will be opening its hybrid restaurant and foodcourt concept next to the discount store by the end of January.
When I moved to Singapore, it was surprising to see the price difference between Singapore and Japan. What costs one dollar in Japan is sometimes two or three dollars here.
FOUNDER AND CHAIRMAN OF DON QUIJOTE TAKAO YASUDA on how the seeds for the Singapore store were sown. He moved here in 2015
When Hokkaido Marche opens, it will offer eight self-service style outlets and will have a night market concept for dinner hours. Together, the two brands plan to market Japanese food, products and restaurants to Singaporeans at pocket-friendly prices.
The seeds for the Singapore store were sown when Don Quijote's Mr Yasuda moved here in 2015 and found how expensive items were in Singapore. "Back then, I was semi-retired, but when I moved to Singapore, it was surprising to see the price difference between Singapore and Japan," he said during a press conference yesterday. "What costs one dollar in Japan is sometimes two or three dollars here."
So when he was approached by Hokkaido Marche to partner their concepts for Singapore, he agreed immediately.
For Mr Yasuda, the decision to open in Singapore is a strategic one. For one thing, he said that the items here are about 20 per cent more expensive than identical ones the chain sells in Japan due to higher costs, but are still priced lower compared with competitors here.
Don Don Donki's product selection of about 30,000 items was curated for Singapore and spans a wide array of products, including fresh vegetables and meats, groceries and beverages, party goods, costumes, clothing, make-up and household products. A third of the product selection is from Hokkaido.
Mr Yasuda also has plans to expand into South-east Asia. Singapore, he said, serves as an important regional headquarters for the business. There are also plans to expand here, he said. These include opening a second store in 100am mall in Tanjong Pagar by June next year and, hopefully, at least 10 stores in Singapore in the next four to five years.
"Singapore is a very important market for us. It is also a good base for us as people speak English here and it makes it easier for us to expand globally," said Mr Yasuda.
Shopper Nancy Lim, 21, says she is looking forward to Don Don Donki's opening.
"I have shopped at its stores and I'm quite excited for it to open in Singapore," says the student. "Even though it's not a one-price discount store like some others in Singapore, things from the brand are of high quality and affordable. Plus its snacks and sushi selections are always very good."