Last week, I had the opportunity to go to a public screening of the 1996 film Supermarket Woman over at Royal T Cafe in Culver City, California. This excellent film written by notable Japanese director, Juzo Itami, took me by surprise as I really didn’t have any expectations for this romantic-comedy set in a Japanese supermarket.
Plot summary, from wikipedia
A new supermarket ‘Bargains Galore’ opens, and threatens the longer-established ‘Honest Goro’ with its aggressive price cutting. The owner of ‘Honest Goro’ (Goro, played by Masahiko Tsugawa) inspects the new store, and bumps into an old classmate he hasn’t seen for years (Hanako, played by Nobuko Miyamoto). She uses her ‘housewife’s know’ to show him why his supermarket is performing so badly. He resolves to make his supermarket the best in Japan, and gives her a job as head cashier.
She helps to improve customer service and introduces new sales techniques and a policy of selling only fresh food. However, in doing so she angers senior staff members who don’t want to change their ways. However, the store gradually attracts more customers.
Hanako a vivacious self described widowed housewife’ acts as the catalyst for change at Honest Goro supermarket run by her childhood friend Goro, also a widower. She constantly challenges the status quo in a multitude of areas at the supermarket.
I found it personally interesting how Hanako develops relationships with her staff, boss, customers, and vendors. She makes her intentions clear, shares her wisdom, and for the win-win opportunities. Hanako’s status as a widowed housewife who by Japanese norms in the 1990’s ought to not be able to help turnaround a struggling burliness. However, Hanako leverages her quick thinking, charm, tenacity, curiosity and an entrepreneurial attitude to help the staff at the Honest Goro supermarket make changes that might give the store a chance at not just surviving but thriving.
If you never thought the supermarket could be dynamic stage, think again. Action, comedy, romance, fit comfortably at Honest Goro. We seem to label our films like our foods in convenient categories. Supermarket Woman fits transcends categories and welcomes all types. Let Hanako and the team at Honest Goro take you on adventure in grocery shopping that inspires, teaches, and entertains.
Thank you you to Dr. Jordan Smith of UCLA for giving a pre-screening talk on the film’s background and the history of supermarkets in Japan. According to Smith, supermarkets were introduced to Japan through their initial establishment near American military bases.
I particularly recommend this film to entrepreneurs, business students, and those curious about business operations.