Most of our shopping related to cosplay and Japanese items happen online but Tofu Cute are changing that and have invaded our high streets, starting with Portsmouth!
How did Tofu Cute begin?
Tofu Cute started in 2010 after our team, who had previously been involved with importing and retailing Japanese toys and gadgets, saw the increase in popularity of kawaii culture and Japanese snacks in the UK. We began selling online only, but towards the end of 2010 we were invited to exhibit at a small J-culture event in London, and our stalls / booths at events snowballed from there!
What influenced the decision in advancing Tofu Cute from an online store (& pop up at conventions), to becoming a shop on the high street?
We have actually been based at the location where the shop is for almost 2 years – this is where our team works from, and where our web orders are dispatched from! So, it made sense to open up the store front to the public, as we are working here daily and it is one of the main routes into Portsmouth city centre.
What was the process in setting up Tofu Cute on the hight street?
There was a lot of renovation work to be done in the shop and on the front of the building, which took the majority of the time and resources, plus a lot of pots of pink paint! Once the basics were in place, actually setting up the products was a similar process to setting up our pop-up shop at conventions!
What was the biggest challenge in setting up your shop?
The biggest challenge was actually setting a deadline and sticking to it. The Tofu Cute team has so many other projects to work on, such as organising our booths at events, sourcing stock, photographing new products for the website, and order dispatch – it was very easy for the shop project to take a back seat during busy periods. However we knew that we had to get it open before Christmas, so we switched priorities, put our minds to it and got it done – just over a week before Christmas! >w<
What affect have you seen Tofu Cute shop have on the locals?
We managed to build up quite a buzz of interest from the people who pass by, because the front of the building has been getting gradually pinker over the course of a year, and our company name has been displayed at the front for a long time. So people have become curious and visited our website to find out what exactly we’re all about! The shop window display was a lot of fun to set up, and we’re planning to change this for every main season / occasion – it allows for a lot of creativity, and a lot of people have stopped to gawp at it.
Do you think Tofu Cute’s presence in Portsmouth will help encourage an interest of Japanese culture?
We hope so! The joys of opening up here rather than a city with more access to J-culture such as London or Brighton, is that local Japanese culture fans are happy and surprised that a shop like this has opened up here rather than in one those more “obvious” places! We’ve all been really pleasantly surprised by the high number of J-culture fans based in Portsmouth which we’ve met since the shop opened. A lot of them have a great knowledge of particular areas such as cosplay, J-fashion, food etc. It’s also amazing that some people have travelled from quite away far to visit, we’re so thankful to everyone! Similarly we’ve had locals visiting who only have a very vague idea of Japanese culture, and have been interested to learn more about the items in the shop.
What are the favourite items you are selling at the moment?
The six new flavours of ramune (Japanese soda) are great – we’ve sold ramune for many years, but this is the first time new flavours have been added to the range, and the bottles are really cute. Also, the Amuse products are absolutely adorable. We’ve sold their Alpacasso Alpaca range for a while but now we have a lot more of their ranges (some of which aren’t on the website yet, but will be soon!) including: Loppy Bunny, Rosy Wooly the Sheep, Gogorin Panda, Gomarachi Seal, Tuchineko Cats, Red Pandas & Raccoons.
Plans for Tofu Cute in 2015?
We plan to widen our product range a lot with new ranges of cute stuff and snacks, and develop the website product range on our sister company for Japanese fashion (Dreamy Bows). There are also a few finishing touches to complete in the shop, such as wall graphics, and we’ll be closing for a couple of weeks while our office is renovated – we’re not quite there yet, but almost! We’ll be exhibiting at a lot of events as always, so there’s a lot to keep us busy this year!
Thank you, we hope to come visit Tofu Cute at 128-130 Kingston Road soon! Remember to follow Tofu Cute on Twitter @tofu_cute