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Old Navy chases new blood in untapped Nagoya, Gifu markets

Chunichi Shimbun

Old Navy, the largest casual clothing retailer in the United States, opened two outlets in the Chubu region on April 25 in what appears to be a foray aimed at leveraging its fashion sense, high quality and low prices in central Honshu.

One of the stores faces the main street in Nagoya’s Sakae district and is the first of its kind in the area. The other opened as a branch in MALera, a commercial building in Motosu, Gifu Prefecture, the same day.

The Sakae outlet occupies the first and second floors of the Otsudori Denki Building, where customers are greeted by a family of mannequins dressed in bright primary colors at the entrance.

Old Navy, a subsidiary of U.S. apparel retailer Gap Inc., is targeting mothers in their 30s who are busy juggling child-rearing duties with work and prefer to buy clothing and other goods for the entire family in a single trip.

The outlets are run by Old Navy Japan. Unlike its parent company, which focuses on keeping up with fashion trends, Old Navy places more importance on creating a sense of familiarity by making certain T-shirts available only in a particular region or selling items for pets.

Founded in California, Old Navy has grown to around 1,000 stores in North America alone. Its first Japanese outlet opened in the DiverCity Tokyo Plaza complex in Odaiba, the waterfront district in Koto Ward, in July 2012. That was followed by seven more outlets in the Tokyo metropolitan area and Kansai in April.

Recently, the area around the Otsudori Denki Building has become a battleground for what is known as “fast fashion,” which describes the short availability cycle for clothing as labels swiftly switch inventory to deliver the latest fashion trends. Leading stores in this field include H&M, ZARA, and Uniqlo.

“We provide quality and great fashion at low cost, which differentiates us from fast fashion,” Old Navy Japan President Masahiro Matsuda, 46, said.

Old Navy has high hopes for its latest expansion in Chubu. By opening its flagship store in Nagoya, the company hopes to increase the number of stores in malls near residential areas.

“We are also planning on launching a store in Meieki (a bustling district east of Nagoya Station),” Matsuda added.

This section, appearing Saturdays, features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published April 25.