Fast Retailing Co., Ltd.
Uniqlo Co., Ltd. is a Japanese casual wear designer, manufacturer and retailer.
Originally a division of Fast Retailing Co., Ltd., on November 1, 2005, Uniqlo Co., Ltd. was born of corporate restructuring, and now exists as a 100% consolidated subsidiary of Fast Retailing, which is listed on the first section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange.
Uniqlo is Japan's leading clothing retail chain in terms of both sales and profits. The company also operates in China, Hong Kong, South Korea, the United Kingdom, France, the United States, Singapore, Taiwan, Russia and Malaysia.
Since March 1949, a Yamaguchi-based company, Ogori Shōji (which, until then, had been operating men's clothing shops called "Men's Shop OS") existed in Ube, Yamaguchi.
In June 1984, they opened a unisex casual wear store in Fukuro-machi, Naka-ku, Hiroshima under the name "Unique Clothing Warehouse". It was at this time that the name "Uniqlo" was born, as a contraction of "unique clothing". In September 1991, the name of the company was changed from "Ogori Shōji" to "Fast Retailing", and by April 1994, there were over 100 Uniqlo stores operating throughout Japan.
In 1997, they adopted a set of strategies from American retailing giant The Gap, known as "SPA" (Speciality-store/retailer of Private-label Apparel), meaning that they would produce their own clothing and sell it exclusively. Uniqlo had begun outsourcing their clothing manufacturing to factories inChina where labour was cheap, a well-established corporate practice. Japan was in the depths of a recession at the time, and the low cost, high-quality goods proved popular. Their advertising campaigns also proved fruitful.
In November 1998, they opened their first urban Uniqlo store in Tokyo’s trendy Harajuku district, and outlets soon spread to major cities throughout Japan. In 2001, sales turnover and gross profit reached a new peak, and with over 500 retail stores in Japan, Uniqlo decided to expand overseas, establishing Fast Retailing (Jiangsu) Apparel Co., Ltd. in China (and in 2002, opening their first Chinese Uniqlo outlet in Shanghai) and opening their first four overseas outlets in London, England.
But sales did not go well in England, and stocks in Japanese warehouses were overflowing. In 2002 and 2003, Uniqlo profits dropped sharply. In 2004, the company began joint ventures with Japanese fashion magazines, and hired such celebrities as Norika Fujiwara to appear in commercials. They teamed up with new designers, and profits rose (their London outlets also finally entered the black). The acquisition of other fashion companies by Fast Retailing also helped the struggling company get back on its feet.
2005 saw more overseas expansion, with stores opening in the United States (New York), Hong Kong (Tsim Sha Tsui) and South Korea (Seoul), their South Korean expansion being part of a joint venture with Lotte. By 2006, Uniqlo was looking into expansion into Europe after a re-launch in the UKstabilized profits. As of year-end 2005, in addition to its overseas holdings, Uniqlo had around 700 stores within Japan. Fast Retailing signed a design consulting contract for UNIQLO products with fashion designer Jil Sander in March 2009. Shiatzy Chen has been approached by UNIQLO to produce a capsule collection of ready to wear pieces to launch in November 2010 while Asia's largest Uniqlo store outside Japan opened its doors in Kuala Lumpur in the same month.