Japan Railway & Transport Review No. 56 (Front Cover)



Since JR East was established in 1987, top management has recognized the ‘asset value’ of its many stations handling tens or even hundreds of thousands of passengers daily but which were left largely undeveloped commercially during the JNR era. As a result, commercial development including construction of station buildings was launched at an early stage and the ‘Ekinaka’ project is now bearing fruit. ‘Ekinaka’ is the name given to developing the area between the ticket wickets, which are now largely automated, and platforms into an integrated commercial facility made up of shops stocking mostly foodstuffs, as well as various eateries with seating, replacing the simple kiosks and noodle stands that used to be the norm. In an airport, this would be the area after passing through security checks, or immigration on international flights, on the way to the gate. Airport eateries in this area focus only on light snacks because full meals are provided on the plane. Instead, airports concentrate on providing a full-range of souvenir shops, and duty-free shops at international departures in particular exploit their location to the maximum through an enclosed or restricted monopoly space. ‘Ekinaka’ do not have a clear monopoly like this; although many customers pass through them, we cannot really say customers are physically and psychologically enclosed or that the flow is precisely controlled like in an airport. What is more, stations lack favourable conditions such as duty free. So why have ‘Ekinaka’ been successful? I think the reason lies in the carefully selected composition of shops. ‘Ekinaka’ do not sell expensive objects or items that take up a lot of space, such as clothing, but instead target foodstuffs and eateries, with an emphasis on Japanese and western confectionery. Moreover, they offer exclusive local items that can otherwise only be purchased in remote local regions, as well as high-quality products that can be eaten with no worries about safety. It is this differentiation that has led to their success. At any rate, both top management who guided station development and staff who implemented the ‘Ekinaka’ business model both deserve to be commended.

K. Aoki