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Saturday, Sept. 22, 2001
A SHINSAIBASHI INSTITUTION
Vivre's demise will leave a gap in Osaka
OSAKA -- The bankruptcy of the Osaka-based Mycal group earlier this month sent shock waves through the business and financial worlds.
But for many younger Osaka residents, the woes of the nation's fourth-largest supermarket chain were particularly sad because the collapse means the end of Vivre, a division of Mycal that was one of the area's most popular and trendy stores.
Mycal Corp. filed for court protection from creditors Sept. 14, along with six group firms, with a reported total of 1.74 trillion yen in liabilities.
Vivre's Shinsaibashi outlet will sorely be missed. Built in 1986, it featured clothing and accessories boutiques.
"The Vivre concept was unique at the time. In the Shinsaibashi district, you had traditional department stores like Sogo (Co.) and Daimaru (Inc.) that were big, and somewhat impersonal," said Kumi Itoh, a freelance writer who contributes to fashion magazines. "Vivre opened a store that had a cool design, featured salesclerks who were also young and trendy, and felt more like a disco than a department store.
"The idea of so-called leisure buildings, which offered not only goods for sale but also restaurants and entertainment, may not have begun with Vivre. But Vivre's success in Shinsaibashi spawned a lot of imitators."
During the bubble days, the Vivre outlet was one of Osaka's most popular spots.
A nightclub opened briefly in the basement, keeping the shoppers dancing until dawn, while a music store had, according to local music buffs, one of the finest selections of jazz records in all of Japan.
"We probably have around 2,000 LPs, including a lot of jazz from the '40s, '50s and '60s. We also have a lot of American popular music from the 1970s," said one sales clerk.
Following the collapse of Mycal, Vivre Shinsaibashi announced that it, too, would be shutting its doors. While most of the shops have until Sept. 30 to shut down, a few are staying open until Oct. 14.
"It's a real shame. I used to come here all of the time. It really does signal that times have changed," said Mieko Yoshizawa, 30, who visited three different shops over two days seeking bargains.
The Kansai business community expressed disappointment over the collapse of Mycal and Vivre, but they also warn their demise will mean more hard times ahead for similar businesses.
Many predict more leisure buildings with expensive boutiques of the kind that Vivre helped pioneer are likely to go under in the coming months.
"If you take a look at the kinds of fashion buildings and businesses that are really successful in Osaka these days, you see it's the Chanel and Louis Vitton specialty stores, which have a concept or a theme and really stand out, architecturally, from other buildings," Itoh said.
"These kinds of specialty theme boutiques will probably continue to do well, while the Vivre imitators are not likely to succeed."