Striving to produce merchandise that will definitely sell, under the motto “Converting thrill and excitement to a product.”
The secrets of a hidden but successful product seller, that holds a record of selling 10000 units a week.
Eye-catching colourful sweets, in a popular apparel-shop developed by a major apparel manufacturer. Classy souvenirs with decorative, Japanese cords, displayed in a distinguished museum in Japan
At a restaurant that prides itself on its full-course menus, the desserts offer a sense of enjoyment, benefiting the aftertaste of the meal.
The president of Re-mix Co.,Ltd. Ritsuko Tominaga is behind the OEM based planning and production of these items.
Re-mix Co.,Ltd. is a company that focuses thoroughly on “products that sell”. Its activities range from production of sweets and general merchandise on an OEM basis, to planning, producing, consulting and creating selling space for food related projects.
In the Japanese convenience store industry, chocolates and cookies that sell 10 units a week are considered a big hit product. Within this context, Tominaga holds a record of selling more than 10,000 Re-mix product units a week, at 40 popular clothing and general goods shops. The Re-mix customer store attracts the attention of major supplier chains as well as sweet manufacturers’ product planning personnel. These major chains have been seen buying Re-mix merchandise themselves.
Tominaga’s biggest strength as a hit maker is her “planning ability.”
She claims, “The ability to propose products that perfectly match the characteristics of a given brand is my biggest strength. For example, I might suggest something fashionable for one brand, or something funny for another one. In addition, our material procurement capabilities and the ability to limit costs enable us to handle small number lots. Because of this, we can satisfy needs of companies that can’t reach agreements with major manufacturers otherwise.”
Since Re-mix bulk delivers products that are made to order in bulk, they are frequently entrusted with the entire process from planning to procurement, manufacturing and delivery. At times, Tominaga herself is involved in drawing illustrations and making dummy samples using a utility knife.
Re-mix’s originality is the basis for the unique merchandise, which is not found in major manufacturers and specialty shops.
Her activities, however, are not limited to OEM based merchandise planning.
By making use of her innate sense of aesthetic and her deep knowledge of food, she is also involved in many other activities such as producing delicatessen brands or sweets for exhibitions of prestigious overseas brands. Here are a few examples.
At a presentation of a new line of products of a multinational cosmetics brand, Re-mix ice cream was offered to guests. The ice-cream’s color matched the red gloss of the main product. Colours for other flavours were made to relate to each item of the product line.
At a Japanese restaurant, Re-mix provided the dessert for a full course dinner. During that occasion, consideration was not limited to the taste of the dish itself, but detailed adjustments were made to match the main course’s soy sauce flavored dishes.
Tominaga not only meets the demands of her clients, but also actively makes proposals to enhance sales. In doing so, she combines thorough target segmentation together with her own sensibility, which can be indeed described as a “Re-mix-ing” merchandise production that grabs the customers’ hearts.
Tominaga’s sensibility was cultivated from an early age. She went frequently to the Hankyu Department Store in Umeda which she has been going to since she was 5. She was a precocious child that would spend her time admiring the show windows and beautiful handcraft. She was especially interested in fashion and remade her dolls’ dresses if they were not to her liking. She showed qualities as a “producer” from an early age.
During her upper elementary school years, she was already an avid reader of magazines such as “an-an” and “Roadshow”. She surprised those around her with her adult-like attitude not normally seen at her age when, for example, she played truant from after-school music courses for gifted children and went to see movies instead.
As she developed her aesthetic sense by being engaged in what attracted and interested her, during her junior high school year, she decided to apply to the vocal performance programs at music colleges. Having started to learn the piano at the age of 4, and attended music courses for gifted children, that was her obvious choice.
She started working as a piano teacher for Roland Music School whilst still a student, and eventually became the most popular instructor in terms of student enrollment and continuation.
She says that what she has learned during her time as a piano instructor is very much helping her at work today.
“My ability to grasp clients’ needs was developed during my teaching experience as an instructor.”
“I would think on how to motivate my students. For example, I would teach pop music to those who liked it, while for those that were becoming bored with classic music, I would attract their interest by telling them that even a single composition has various interpretations differing between the ages. I learned that you could satisfy your clients’ needs by voluntarily coming up with creative solutions.”
“Responding to your clients’ needs instead of pursuing your own interests is what will bring success in business.” Becoming aware of this fact is the basis of Tominaga’s fine sense of balance in her merchandise planning.
She continued to work as a piano instructor after graduation and led a smooth life, but at the age of 34, due to family circumstances, she joined the company managed by her father. She was entrusted to work in entirely new fields, such as new customer development and product development, and again she succeeded in attracting customers with resourceful product proposals. She steadily brought in new customers and produced hit products. However, due to the continuous arguments with her father, who was also the company’s CEO, she quit her job before three years were up.
Whilst wondering what to do next, she found a book titled “How to Found a Small Company” on her bookshelf, and decided to found her own company.
“I had absolutely no knowledge on how to run a company. I thought that an unannounced sales visit wouldn’t be one, if I made a cold call beforehand (laughs). They would tell me that they couldn’t understand what I was trying to sell, or that they couldn’t arrange an appointment for me if not through some reference, and each time I would think to myself, “These people are losing money by turning me down (laughs).”
Even when turned down, Tominaga had faith in her products. When she first started her company, she visited a major apparel chain and was told that they were not looking for new businesses. However, as soon as she presented her plans, a deal went through smoothly. She kept on accumulating results, and sales reached 60 million yen after a year from starting the company, and in the second year, it grew to reach an annual sale of one hundred million yen.
Other than these activities, Tominaga is committed to projects that make use of music, which is an important part of who she is today. She is undertaking roles in projects which tie medicine and music, such as staging free concerts and producing educational DVDs and music tunes that help vocal development.
Tominaga is currently involved in a project in cooperation with the 1st oral surgery department of the school of dentistry of the University of Osaka, called “KOTOBAKIREI Project.”
This program is targeted towards children having problems with pronunciation, as well as those more able, so that they can enunciate better and vocalize in a natural way. As it can be adopted for both Japanese and foreign languages, she believes that it will even help early age English learning. Those involved in this project are considering market expansion, beyond Japan.
Tominaga, who has a good international awareness, is involved in another activity called “Japanese Cool Products,” where fine products from Japan are introduced overseas.
The 2011 Tohoku earthquake triggered her idea to further spread the “fine qualities of Japanese products” worldwide. In November of the same year, she staged an exhibition in Rome, Italy, which was a success with the public. There, she felt that “Japanese goods would be received favorably around the world.” Currently, she exhibits and sells Japanese goods at a shop in Rome, with her sister who lives there.
“I lacked self-confidence when I was working in the field of music, but after I started my own company, there are customers that have been with us for quite a while. When a former contact, who has changed company, approaches you to start a new deal, then I think that I have followed the right path. Facing and solving every single problem that arises, and keeping a sincere attitude are what made us now.”
By “sincere attitude”, Tominaga means producing products with attention and care. Tominaga, who has produced many original products, is once again becoming aware of the importance to create innovatively.
“Whenever a hit product is created, imitations are made and designs with similar characteristics emerge in the market. That is one way to do it, but I don’t like copying. If people started to learn how to build and develop a concept of a product, there would be more growth. Superficial things eventually go out of fashion. That is why it is important to go beyond imitation and have the ability to find new ideas and apply them.”
She is now planning to further develop her company in order to offer comprehensive consulting, which ranges from the targeting of customers to the establishing of concepts and commercialization of products. This service is aimed at companies in search of new ideas and methods of implementation.
“I think that we are able to do this, because we are not limited to only marketing or consulting, but go beyond these stages and make actual products.”
Tominaga considers the materialisation of people’s and companies’ thoughts, and introducing them into the market, as her most important mission
As my work is always behind the scenes, my Facebook page is almost dedicated to gastronomy, laughs Tominaga. Within a global network of entrepreneurs, where she is also a member, she is known as “World’s Ritchan.” Her international awareness developed through the visits to more than 90 cities in 31 countries, and her continuous attention to how Japan is seen in the world’s eyes, must be what attracts the interest of Asian and tech industry billionaires.
Interview & Editing／ Mitsuya Kakihata, Noriko Aoki, Nami Takahashi
Photography:／Ayako Shohata Translation／Ippei Otani
Ritsuko Tominaga was born in Osaka, Japan.
As a young child, her playground was Olympia Confectionery Co.,Ltd., a chocolate making company founded by her grandfather.
Ritsuko began learning how to play the piano at four years old, and later started singing at seventeen.
She graduated from Soai University majoring in voice performance.
As a student, she worked as an instructor for Roland Music School, teaching classical piano and computer music.
She also sang and played the piano for commercial TV songs in a wide range of musical genre
She Joined Nippon Chocolate Co., Ltd. in 1999, and was responsible for market and product development.
She left the company in May, 2002 and founded Remix Co.,Ltd. the following month.
Her hobbies include cooking and travelling.
She has visited more than 90 cities in 31 countries.