Fast Retailing, owner of the Japan-based Uniqlo casual-clothing chain, laid out plans to overtake Gap Inc’s 3,200 stores and Zara’s 5,000 stores, to become the world’s largest apparel retailer. Their plan is to open about 200 to 300 stores annually outside of Japan primarily in Asia.
The reason for this push is that Fast Retailing projects that over the next 10 years the number of potential customers for its products will grow by over 1 billion; that’s with a “b.” Currently there are about 1,000 Uniqlo stores, mainly in Japan. Their current sales are about $US 13 billion; by 2015 they are targeting sales of $US 22 billion.
Whether Fast Retailing’s plans come to fruition, it is important that improvement professionals whose experience is limited to North America and/or Europe, become much more tapped-into the networks in east Asia, south Asia and south-east Asia, and that they learn more about the large companies in these markets.
Although fans of Uniqlo have lobbied the company to open a store in Canada, we have yet to see one here. However, they will open their first stores in New York City, so if you are in Manhattan you can take a look after October 14th 2011 at their flagship store on Fifth Avenue (at 89,000 square feet it will be the largest store on Fifth Avenue) and after October 21st at their second NYC store, the 69,000 square foot 34th Street store.
The Uniqlo business model, detailed on its website , is an interesting supply chain study:
An outline of their business strategy is at: http://www.fastretailing.com/eng/group/strategy/tactics.html#tac03