We had such an amazing trip to Tokyo! Our agenda was twofold: One, to reconnect with our existing seven employees, and second, to hire more team members.
We began launching Vera Bradley in Japan roughly one year ago, through pop-up stores. These retail outlets are temporary in nature and allow us to see how the customer responds to our brand in a variety of different markets and locations. Our Japanese team did an amazing job helping us set up, manage and tear down these pop-up stores.
From the moment we stepped onto our Japan Airlines flight from Chicago to Tokyo, it was apparent why Vera Bradley is such good fit for this country. We both live by a standard of values: Respect, humility and caring, to name a few. Our flight attendants were amazing throughout the 11½-hour hour flight and the hotel staff could not have been more accommodating, greeting us by name as we arrived.
After we adjusted to the 14-hour time difference, we were able to sit down and talk with each of our employees individually. Each was extremely enthusiastic about the brand and product, expressing their desire to continue supporting our stores in Japan. One by one, they commented on how much they enjoyed their team. The funny thing is, if I were to walk around any of our offices in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and ask employees what they like best about working at Vera Bradley, they would say the exact same thing! Despite language and cultural differences, Vera Bradley has a way of bringing people together. We feel like we are sharing in something special, which bonds us together in a way that cannot be explained. It was incredible to sit with each team member and understand how the company, product and their fellow team members have impacted their lives over the past 12 months.
Over the next several days, we interviewed candidates, some familiar with Vera Bradley and others not. Some of them had seen our store in Ala Moana, Hawaii, and were thrilled that we were coming to Japan. And in keeping with the culture (both Japanese and Vera Bradley) we offered each candidate a Clip Zip ID as a thank you for spending time with us.
Our final day in Japan was the first-ever Friends and Family Sale. Although on a much smaller scale, it was just like our Outlet Sale in Fort Wayne, with customers lining up before the sale opened! Our staff (including some new members) worked so hard to make the event, which lasted four days, a success. They provided excellent service to the customers, kept the sales floor stocked and tidy and wore a smile on their faces throughout. It was a privilege to see them in action.
I feel so honored to have been part of the process of building the Vera Bradley presence in Japan. The passion and enthusiasm our overseas employees have for the company and product will be contagious as more people are introduced to our colors and character.