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Uniqlo Looks For Niche in American Clothing Market

Uniqlo, a Japanese basics retailer, is looking to expand beyond its 800 stores in Japan and take over a share of the American clothing market.

What’s the Latest Development?

Uniqlo is a Japanese clothing company that founder Tadashi Yanai plans on making a household name in the United States. After starting Uniqlo in 1984, Yanai has successfully expanded the company throughout Japan over the last three decades. Its current revenue is $12 billion but Yanai’s goal for the company is $50 billion by 2020. In order to make that projection, Yanai hopes to open 200 to 300 U.S. stores in addition to the 800 retail locations existing throughout Japan. “Uniqlo is vowing to beat Gap at its own game, clothing all of America in basics at affordable prices.”

What’s the Big Idea?

Uniqlo stores had already arrived in the U.S. in 2005 in the form of three New Jersey mall shops and failed miserably. The problem ostensibly was branding. “No one knew who we were,” U.S. CEO Shin Odake says. Since 2005, Uniqlo has improved its game, working with fashion designer Jil Sander, opening massive retail spaces in prime New York City locations, and hiring tennis phenom Novak Djokovic as a spokesperson. Yanai sees his company as less like other clothing retailers and more like digital empires such as Apple. With innovative fabrics like “Heattech, a proprietary warmth-generating Uniqlo cloth” or Airism, a cooling fabric, Yanai sees his stores becoming the high-quality at a reasonable cost giant that Gap once was.

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