Department stores in Japan increasingly do away with uniforms

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A store clerk wears a uniform in the JR Nagoya Takashimaya department store in Nagoya on Dec. 7.

Major department stores across the country are eliminating uniforms for employees.

Takashimaya Company plans to abolish uniforms by the end of February 2023 for all female store staff, except for some posts such as information desks.

To emphasize gender equality and promote diversity, Isetan Mitsukoshi Holdings and Hankyu Hanshin Department Stores Inc. have already undertaken similar steps for their department stores.

Among the department store operators keeping uniforms in place are Daimaru Matsuzakaya Department Stores Co. and Sogo & Seibu Co.

Takashimaya’s practice of women wearing uniforms dates back at least 100 years. Female staff working in sales areas for items such as handkerchiefs and gift certificates have been subject to uniform regulations, with the company lending outfits to the staff.

These rules on uniforms were abolished in September at 16 of its outlets nationwide. The last of its outlets to abolish the uniforms will be JR Nagoya Takashimaya.

The decision was made because Takashimaya viewed such uniform regulations as not being in line with the times. The company said the move is also aimed at preventing the so-called 3Cs of closed spaces, crowded places and close-contact settings in locker rooms amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

With the abolishment of the uniform regulations, the company has established new clothing guidelines, such as wearing a jacket of a subdued color. The uniforms for information staff will remain, however, so that customers can recognize them at a glance. Cooks in the food sections will also continue to wear white.

In 2003, the Hankyu department store abolished uniforms to let employees make use of their individuality when dealing with customers. In April this year, Isetan Mitsukoshi also eliminated uniforms at its stores, a move that a spokesperson said was taken to promote diversity among employees.

This trend has also been spreading to regional department stores such as Tsuruya Department Store Co. in Kumamoto city, which has been abolishing uniforms in stages since September.