Sep 3, 2009
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Uniqlo to open biggest store yet in Shanghai

Sep 3, 2009

TOKYO (AFP) — The Japanese operator of the Uniqlo casual chain said Wednesday 2 September that it would open a new flagship store in Shanghai, its biggest in the world, as it targets a seven-fold increase in sales by 2020.

Tadashi Yanai, president of Fast Retailing and operator of Uniqlo - Photo: AFP

Fast Retailing, one of the few Japanese companies to have bucked the global economic downturn with rising profits, will also seek takeovers to further boost its global presence, its president Tadashi Yanai said.

The group, which owns 772 Uniqlo outlets in Japan and 90 overseas, will open its first Moscow shop and the flagship store in Shanghai next spring, said Yanai, Japan's richest person, according to Forbes magazine.

It aims to expand its worldwide network to 4,000 stores within a decade, with overseas operations accounting for three-quarters of its revenue, he told a news conference to outline the group's business strategy.

"It is indispensable for us to seek acquisitions to achieve growth in the United States and Europe," said.

The company is chasing sales of five trillion yen (54 billion dollars) by 2020, up from the 682 billion yen it expects in this business year to August.

The group is looking to grow its operations overseas as its domestic market matures and shrinks due to a rapidly greying population.

The group, which also owns the New York-originated Theory fashion label and French brand Comptoir des Cotonniers, said it could secure more than 400 billion yen for acquisitions.

Last year it lost out in a bidding war to buy upscale US department store Barneys New York.

Fast Retailing is pitting itself against global rivals such as US-based Gap Inc, Sweden's Hennes & Mauritz, and the Spanish Zara brand.

It has managed to shift its image from a cheap no-frills brand to one offering "high-tech" fabric such as its iconic "Heat Tech" sweaters, while collaborating with world-class designers such as Jil Sander and Alexander Wang.

The 60-year-old Yanai, who has said he will step down as head when he turns 65, said the company plans to ride the coat-tails of fast-growing Asian markets, opening new stores in India, Bangladesh, Vietnam and China.

He expects Uniqlo's sales to eventually reach one trillion yen in China, where it will open about 100 shops each year with a goal of having as many as 1,000 large-scale stores.

Yanai, who transformed his father's tiny clothing store in southern Hiroshima into one of the world's biggest retailers, said he plans to set up schools aiming to groom future managers, including his successor.

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