Innovation

Uniqlo to open first Australian store in 2014: Four things you didn’t know about the iconic Japanese brand

Yolanda Redrup /

Japanese fashion label Uniqlo is finally set to open in Australia in 2014, ending years of speculation as to when the brand would launch down under.

The move by the brand, founded by wealthy Japanese magnate Tadashi Yanai, marks the latest step in its international expansion.

Uniqlo, a division of Fast Retailing, specialises in young and trendy clothing basics and will open its doors in Melbourne’s Lonsdale Street next year.

It was first reported in 2011 the Japanese brand was looking at coming to Australia, with Yanai telling The Australian at the time it was hoping to have opened by 2012.

Since opening its first store in Hiroshima, Japan in 1984, the company has grown to 1200 stores globally across 14 markets.

The brand’s arrival in Australia marks the last of the big-four fast retail chains to arrive in Australia, with Zara, H&M and Topshop already opening stores.

Retail Oasis director Nerida Jenkins told SmartCompany Uniqlo will challenge local retailers such as Cotton On and department stores selling basics.

“There will be some direct competitors, but more broadly it strengthens the retail market as it has an umbrella effect of creating new reasons for consumers to go back in-store,” she says.

“Over the past three to four years … local retailers have taken their eye off fashion and being new and innovative and giving customers a reason to go back,” she says.

Uniqlo Australia chief executive Shoichi Miyasaka said in a statement the business intends to provide Australians with a “comfortable and welcoming” shopping environment.

“The city is a great centre of style and we hope to make Uniqlo an essential stop for fashion-conscious Melbourne shoppers looking for high quality, affordable clothes.”

With the latest fashion icon making its way down under, we’ve put together four quick pieces of information you probably didn’t know about the brand:

Tadashi Yanai, Japan’s richest man

On the Forbes 2013 Rich List, the Uniqlo founder was ranked 66th, making him Japan’s richest man with an estimated wealth of $15.5 billion.

As the founder and chief executive of Fast Retailing, Asia’s largest apparel company, Yanai also owns the brands Theory and J Brand.

Rapid expansion during the 1990s

In the 1990s the Japanese economy suffered a significant economic downturn which spanned the entire decade.

During this time Uniqlo experienced fast growth, as the company capitalised on the public’s need for cheaper clothing options. By 1998, there were 300 Uniqlo stores throughout Japan.

Challenges along the way

After major growth during the 1990s, Uniqlo hit a rough patch with sales and profits dropping after 1998. To overcome this it expanded its women’s line and started to see recovery.

Shortly after this it hit another major hurdle, expanding overseas too quickly. By 2002 it had opened 21 stores in the United Kingdom, but had struggled to establish its brand identity.

Incorporating fashion and technology

In an interview with Fast Company Yanai was quoted as saying, “we are not a fashion company … we are a technology company”, referring to how the business uses technology to expand and also its own research and development activities.

The company has developed a heat-retaining material called Heattech, which has been used in some of its Japanese jackets to help with the cold climate during winter.

The material works by absorbing body moisture, with specially designed fibres to capture air and prevent warmth escaping from the body.

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