"When customers ask why we mostly have English on our signs and merchandise, we always tell them the same thing; we're in Canada."
Betty Au, the vice president of operations for Japanese-based Daiso Canada, acknowledges the fact her Aberdeen Centre store is slap bang in the middle of a predominantly Asian neighbourhood in a predominantly Asian city.
She also recognizes that the vast majority of the customers in one of the centre's original anchor stores are of Chinese descent and have Mandarin or Cantonese as their first language.
But that hasn't swayed Daiso, a global dollar store, from its decision to have English as its first language in terms of signage and product labeling.
And it's not just because Aberdeen Centre itself enforces a policy of having English as the dominant language on its tenants' signs.
"Whatever country we're operating in, we respect that country and use their language as the main one," said Au, whose office is based at the Richmond store.
"Our policy also states that you need to have conversational English to work here."
Au admits the lack of Chinese language in their store does, on occasion, cause some communication problems with customers, but said many of her staff are bilingual and any issue can quickly be resolved.
"We have stores in China and the Chinese language is used first and our Japanese second," added Au.
One of the roles of Joey Kwan, public relations manager for Aberdeen Centre, is to help bring in Asian and Caucasian customers.
Kwan said the centre prides itself on its policy to have English as the first language on all of its tenants' signage, despite the fact their main customer base is Asian.
"Every tenant has to sign the contract," said Kwan. "Our owner wanted the mall to be for everyone, he wanted it to be inclusive. It's a business decision of course, as we're trying to target as many customers as possible."
As such, the centre deliberately brings in events and attractions that "reflect the community as a whole, not just the Asian community."
"Our policy is very clear and we rarely have issues because the tenant that's moving in here is well aware of what kind of mall we are," said Kwan, adding that the centre currently has 94 to 96 per cent occupancy of its units.
"(The tenants) are very smart, they'll have done their homework before they come here."
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