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Clothing chain Uniqlo opens record-breaking Tokyo store

Customers enter the new flagship store of casual fashion giant Uniqlo, while Uniqlo sales clerks (white jackets) hand out shopping bags, in Tokyo’s Ginza fashion district on March 16, 2012. – AFP picCustomers enter the new flagship store of casual fashion giant Uniqlo, while Uniqlo sales clerks (white jackets) hand out shopping bags, in Tokyo’s Ginza fashion district on March 16, 2012. – AFP picTOKYO, March 17 – The largest Uniqlo store in the world opened in Tokyo’s upmarket Ginza district yesterday morning, raising the stakes in the growing global market for clothing ranges that are fashionable yet reasonable.

The new outlet has 12 floors and a total retail space of nearly 5,000 square metres, making it the largest of the brand’s global flagship stores. Owned by Fast Retailing Co, Uniqlo already has flagship outlets in New York, London, Paris, Shanghai, Seoul, Taipei and Osaka.

The opening of the smart glass-and-chrome store mirrors Uniqlo chief executive Tadashi Yanai’s vision for the company. In September, the firm announced that it is going to ramp up production to 5 billion items a year, open as many as 300 new stores globally every year and record net sales of Y5 trillion (RM198.69 billion) a year by 2020.

One of the pioneers of “cheap chic,” Uniqlo is facing competition in Japan and around the world from brands such as Stockholm-based H&M, Spain’s Zara, as well as Forever 21 and Gap from the US, but Uniqlo is apparently looking to offer its clients a slightly different shopping experience.

Among the features that might well become part of its credo in other countries in the future, the megastore employs native speakers of six languages, including Korean, Chinese, English and Spanish, to help buyers from overseas, while the floor for children’s clothes has staff trained in childcare and former kindergarten staff.

Concierge services are also available and can also provide advice on local restaurants and bars in Ginza.

The Uniqlo model is based on outsourcing the manufacturing of clothing lines to factories in China, where labour is cheap, and ordering vast quantities at one time.

The company’s first urban store opened as recently as November 1998, but within three years, the company was operating 500 domestic stores and was expanding to China and Britain. – AFP

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