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Fast Retailing Co., a casual-clothing store chain known for its Uniqlo brand, will try to enter the U.S. market as early as 2006, company President Genichi Tamatsuka said in a recent interview.

“We will try to have the first store in the United States as soon as we can after the business year ending in August 2006,” Tamatsuka told Kyodo News.

With regards to the company’s future success, Tamatsuka stated that trying to succeed in the U.S. market is a must.

“The U.S. market is the most competitive and difficult in the world,” he said. “If we have capabilities to win in the United States, I think we will be able to compete anywhere else in the world.”

Tamatsuka said the company, based in the city of Yamaguchi, aims to expand its group annual sales to 1 trillion yen by 2010.

Uniqlo brand clothes are sometimes compared with the U.S. casual-clothing brand GAP.

“At that time, we have an image that overseas sales will increase to around one-third or half of the total domestic sales,” he said.

Due to lukewarm consumer response as of late in Japan, the company, which once enjoyed rapid growth based on its low prices, has recently drawn up a new business strategy, touted as “the declaration of pursuing world-class quality.”

The firm is striving to plug its brand image as one associated with high-quality products instead of low-priced fare.

In June, the company marked the 20th anniversary since it opened its first Uniqlo store, in Hiroshima. It now operates Uniqlo outlets in Britain and China, in addition to some 500 domestic stores.

“We have no plan to compete with just cheap prices. As we wanted to let people know that our products also have an aspect of high quality . . . we came up with the declaration,” said Tamatsuka, who has served as president since November 2002.

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