There’s definitely an elegance to a spiral staircase, and you could argue that an opulent shopping palace is just the place to install one, letting your customers feel stylish and sophisticated even as they move from one floor to the next. However, they won’t feel so glamorous if they’re panting for breath after walking to the top of an eight-story building.
That’s why for its new Shanghai branch, this Japanese department store decided to install spiral escalators, which it’s claiming are the longest of their type in the world.
As China becomes an increasingly important market for consumer goods, foreign-owned retailers are expanding their presence in the country, and Japanese department store Daimaru is getting ready to open its Shanghai New World location. But while the public won’t be able to come in and shop until May, the store recently held an open house where it showed off its snazzy curving escalators.
▼ The escalator action starts at the 20-second mark
If you can’t remember the last time you saw a spiral escalator, there’s probably a good reason why. Mitsubishi Electric, the arm of the conglomerate behind the escalators seen in the video, says it’s the only manufacturer of such apparatuses in the world, and that until now there were only 103 of them installed, with 36 in Japan and 67 overseas.
The reasons why they’re so scarce are the cost and complexity involved in their design. The company says that while producing semicircular motion on a flat plane is no big deal, when you add an incline to the equation, it slows down the rotational movement and has the potential to throw the whole process out of whack. Nevertheless, through a system of specially crafted chains, rails, and hand rails, Mitsubishi says it’s granted the uniquely shaped escalators a smooth and stable ride.
▼ So smooth that the guy at the end of the line can still easily focus on his smartphone’s screen.
The new Daimaru will boast a dozen spiral escalators, which Mitsubishi says is its largest project ever involving the machines. The company also claims they’re the largest of their type in the world, although it’s unclear exactly what measuring method it’s using, as many of the winding pillars seem to be composed of a series of separate escalators.
Of course, there’s more to the Shanghai New World Daimaru than just its fancy escalators. There’s also the open-roofed atrium to gaze up at, plus a selection of both Japanese and international clothing brands. Similar to department stores in Japan, there’s even a supermarket and restaurants in the basement.
Still, being totally honest, if we ever get the chance to go to the store, riding the escalators is the first thing we’re doing, and shopping the second.
▼ Or possible the third, after we try the wasabi takoyaki