Uniqlo sets its sights on UK high street

Japanese Fast Fashion brand, Uniqlo, has announced its intention to open hundreds of new stores worldwide, with the UK representing an important new market for the company which has been forced to close its 50 stores in Russia.

Head of the company, Taku Morikawa, is now based in London, his base for running Uniqlo’s operations in ten European countries. The brand already has 15 stores in the UK and expansion is on the cards as Fast Retailing gains momentum.

Founded in 1974, Unqilo opened its first UK store in 2001 and slowly built up brand awareness ahead of opening a 20,500 flagship store on London’s Regent Street, in what used to be the old Superdry site. Here it combines two brands under the Fast Retailing umbrella – Unqilo and New York fashion brand, Theory. Theory is at the base of the building whilst Unqilo has three floors above, including a new European head office.

Unqilo’s expansion is in stark contrast with the major British retailers which are shutting up shop on the high street and looking to turn their retail real estate into homes and offices. Whilst Next considers closing 150 stores between now and 2037, Fast Retailing has reported record half-year profits of £1.1bn in the six months to February, largely thanks to growing sales in Europe and North America.

Fast Retailing founder, Tadashi Yanai – one of Japan’s richest people – is meanwhile aiming “to become the number-one casualwear brand in the world,” and does not acknowledge other giants in the field, such as Zara or H&M, to be competition.

“It’s not difficult to open many stores in the UK market, but we don’t care about the number or the sales volume,” Morikawa says. “More important is that we open our stores in the right place. People really welcome Uniqlo. If we find the right property, we can open, we want to open.”

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