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So what? A handsome man can sell things faster
( 2004-01-19 14:49) (21 Century)

KEIKO Fukazawa just loves shopping. The single 32-year-old goes to the Printemps Ginza department store in downtown Tokyo two or three times a month. She goes there because that's where her favourite male clerk works.

Model on Milan runway.

More and more, women's clothing stores, hair salons and cosmetics shops are hiring good looking young men to staff the counters filling jobs that traditionally used to go for women.

The new marketing strategy is to attract Japan's big spenders single women in their 20s and 30s who have strong buying power because most are single and live with their parents. And it's working.

Printemps Ginza, which specializes in women's clothing, hired 11 men aged between 23 and 30, this past autumn. They included a former male fashion model who works as a receptionist.

The company hired these "Printemps Boys" because many female customers want to hear what men think about clothing, a department store spokeswoman explained.

Japan's largest cosmetics company, Shiseido, recently hired two male beauty consultants for the first time to work in Tokyo department stores.

"We realized that many women wanted to hear men's opinions about cosmetics," said Shiseido spokesman Wataru Takekoshi. He added that sales had increased at stores where the two male beauty consultants worked.

One of them, 26-year-old Masaki Hirano, works at the Seibu Department store in downtown Tokyo. He said he is lucky to be handsome because many women seem to think male beauty consultants have a better eye for the job.

Seiji Katsurahata, an economist at Dai-Ichi Life Research Institute in Tokyo, said that it is not only because single women have the buying power.

More men in their 20s and 30s are willing to take the traditional women's jobs because of the high unemployment rate.

The jobless rate stood at 5.2 per cent in October, according to government figures. But for men between 15 and 24 it was 10.6 per cent.

"Some men even undergo cosmetic surgery to increase their possibilities of finding a job," Katsurahata said.

Japanese clinics specializing in cosmetic surgery have started having more young male patients.

Dr Kazuhiko Morikawa, deputy head of Ginza Cosmetic Surgery, said that fixing a nose to make it higher, making eyes bigger, and trimming the edges of the right and left face bones to make the face smaller, are the most popular requests from men.

"More men have become conscious about their looks," Dr Morikawa said.

Komuro Cosmetic Surgery even set up a special telephone line for men, where male telephone operators answer inquiries. It also has separate waiting rooms for male and female patients.

"There's nothing to lose when you have a good face," said Yuma Miyazaki, 20, who has had his eyes, nose and face fixed at Komuro Cosmetic Surgery.

"Having a good face improves opportunities at job interviews and parties, where first impressions are important." he says.

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