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I am a freelance writer for newspapers,magazines as well as a journalist for TV.
I am from Tokyo, Japan and have been living in Los Angeles since 1990.

#272- Happy employees make happy customers

As you know many department stores (in U.S. and Japan both) are struggling these days due to consumer’s life style (online shopping, cheap fast fashion stores and discount stores).


In general people want to have a convenience life style and want to purchase reasonable price products.


Last October when I bought gift items (for myself and friend who visited this store together) at RAINS in Ojai, I was very surprised by that RAINS has a complimentary wrapping service (all Japanese department stores have a complimentary wrapping service in Japan). I was smiling on the way back to my home after I shopped at RAINS.


This spring when I heard about some Japanese department stores in country side are closing business and their towns became like a ghost town, I thought I want to find out why RAINS is doing well, and I wanted to inform some great news about RAINS to Japanese readers who are struggling in their business.


I’m glad that I did it. I met a wonderful CEO of RAINS (Mr. Alan Rains) and found out why RAINS is doing well.


1: Mr. Alan Rains is a very kind person.

2: Employees are very cheerful.

3: Many unique products.

4: Reasonable price.

5: Clean and bright inside.


I interviewed Alan and wrote an article for Senken-Shimbun (major Japanese fashion business newspaper in Japan) and the article came out on May 1, 2017.


Lately I stopped translate my materials (newspaper & magazine articles and TV program segment) into English from Japanese in written on paper (my complimentary service for people who I interviewed with. I still do it on the phone to people who gave me their time & info for my work), but I wanted to translate the article into English from Japanese in written on this blog for Alan, RAINS and people (who reads my blog to share the wonderful information about RAINS).


Here is my article into English from Japanese about RAINS. Enjoy!




Published on May 1, 2017


By Yoko Fujimoto



“103 year-old small specialty department store ‘RAINS’ in U.S.”


“The key is ‘nothing waste for buying’ “


While some major department stores are struggling with competition with fast fashion business and online shopping business, there is a successful 103 year-old small specialty department store “RAINS” (2,2000 square feet) in Ojai, California, suburbs of Los Angeles. I interviewed CEO of RAINS, Mr. Alan Rains (86 years old) about the key to success.


“Go with needs of customers”


“(Business) started with a hardware store in 1914. At that time we also sold dynamites for construction. Once we sold electric appliances such as TVs and laundry machines. At this time our main products are clothing (women’s and men’s), kitchen goods (including food such as jam and sauce), hardware, interior goods, gardening supplies and gift goods. We have been changing our products and buying way due to an era and local customers’ needs and trend” he said.


They carry 10 men’s brands such as Patagonia, Tommy Bahama, WOOLRICH, Royal Robbins, Cool and Levi's, and women’s brands are around 100 such as Tribal, Royal Robbins, Bila. From casual wear to dressy, they have all styles.


They also have full accessories such as underwear, pajamas, hats, socks, shoes, sandals, ties and belts.              

RAINS has original goods such as T-shirts, caps, BBQ sauce, honey, soaps and mug cups.

One customer states about the impression of RAINS, “this store is very attractive because they sell many unique goods compare to the other store”.


“Create a town and coexistence”


He said “we are unable to sell a lot of products like major department stores or major chain stores. Our concept is about our customer’s taste. We only sell customer’s favorite products and unique style products”.


“Since we had opened our store, we are focusing on create good Ojai’s town and community. When I heard someone wanted to open stores of children’s and textile, I volunteered to help them and supplied our inventories for their stores. It’s about living together, it’s important that we are not competing with each other, we are creating our town and community in Ojai together” he emphasized.


Regarding the bad condition of major department stores in U.S. and Japan, “Business is not about the size, bigger not better. If we buy a lot of inventories and if we are not selling them, and then the business will go slow down” he pointed out.


“Until four years ago we went to Las Vegas and Los Angeles for buying products, but we are not going there anymore. We have limited products for customers, so we don’t need to see everything. It’s important to save our time and expense. Our products’ brands direct visit our office and bring their samples, this helps us. We need to change our way for buying” he said.


“Employees are happy, and then customers are happy”


Main customers are local residents (40-60 year-old) who are farmers, artists who moved from somewhere in U.S. and tourists who enjoy spa & hiking. “As I said, our products are not for everyone, we focus on products for our customers’ needs and trend. This is very important thing to choose our products. We are not the high-end department store like Neiman Marcus and we are not the discount store like Target. Our store sells good quality and good material products with reasonable price point” he talked.


Busy months with many customers are from April to August, but most good sales months are from October to December for three months. We are not going to announce our sales number, but I inform the daily sales number to my employees with our sales goal, and this boosts our employees’ morale.


There are 20 employees. Some employees have been working 30 years to 50 years. “One time we offered the discount service for customers with stamps, but the profit was not good. Instead of that I am focusing on my employees’ good salaries with my hardship. If employees are happy, and then customers are happy. I believe in this” he revealed.


On the other hand, they have been providing a complementary wrapping service of gifts for customer’s convenience since 30 years ago.

“Lately customers’ most important thing is saving time than saving money.”  So they are focus on the needs, they are able to deliver products for customers who are not able to come to the store. They also deliver products to tourist customers who are trouble to carrying stuff for walking around to their hotel.


About future plans, he said “in 2000 we opened online shop, but we fell the investment. We re-opened our online shop three years ago, and our online sales are 2% of our total sales. We would like to work on social media to reach out to new customers to make differentiation from major online companies such as Amazon”.




Did you enjoy my article about RAINS? I hope you did.


Mr. Alan Rains treated me to lunch after our interview, he is a very kind person. After our interview when we were leaving for lunch, Alan asked me “do you need to go to the restroom?”  Yes, he knows what people want right away. And I liked the kind message on the wall in the restroom (please find out what the sign says by your own eyes!), RAINS knows what people need and want. Very kind CEO and employees, of course this store is doing well (customers are happy to shop here).


When you are in Ojai please visit RAINS (, you will understand what I’m saying.

“Happy employees make happy customers”.


P.S. I bought these after the interview Alan. The card is for my mom's Mother's Day card, honey and light bulbs for my bedroom ceiling fan which better quality than CVS's ones ; )

Yoko Fujimoto


Los Angeles

May 2, 2017

Copyright © 2017 Yoko Fujimoto 


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If you don’t, you will enjoy my column on Senken-Shimbun (major Japanese fashion business newspaper) website.

Here is my translation of my column into English from Japanese.
Enjoy :)

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