Uniqlo is the Japanese equivalent to Europe's Zara or H&M, an international clothing store selling stylish apparel at affordable prices for millenial shoppers. Unlike its rivals, and in keeping with its Japanese roots, its apparel is sober rather than showy; minimalistic and functional, making extensive use of technologically advanced fabrics. Parent Fast Retailing had originally voiced a goal to become the world's leading fashion retailer by 2020 by assembling a small portfolio of satellite chains, either by launch or acquisition. It has since scaled back that highly over-ambitious plan but the first steps towards it led to the purchase of French chains Princesse Tam Tam and Comptoir des Cotonniers, US-based J Brand and Theory and designer Helmut Lang. It also has a partnership with designer Jil Sander to produce occasional collections for Uniqlo under the +J banner. Launches include GU ("jee-yu"), a fun fashion chain aimed at young buyers in Japan and a few other regional markets. However these all trail core brand Uniqlo, which has 815 stores in Japan and another 1,440 internationally, mainly across Asia, including 866 in China, but also a handful of key Western markets. The most significant is the US with 55 stores, but performance there has struggled. The group is the creation of Tadashi Yanai, who inherited his father's single menswear store in rural Japan, and used it as the platform to launch in 1984 what was originally called Unique Clothing Warehouse. Later renamed Uniqlo, it expanded rapidly, initially in Japan, then other Asian markets, and then the West. Yanai is now one of Japan's two richest people (the other is Softbank's Masayoshi Son) with a $25bn fortune. (He still owns more than 20% of group equity; his two sons own around another 9% between them and both work for the company in senior roles). Yanai remains chairman & CEO; former Wieden & Kennedy creative chief John Jay is president of global creative. Group revenues for the year to Aug 2019 hit a new high of approx $20.9bn (Y2,290bn), with net profit of $1.5bn. However topline tumbled in ye 2020 to $18.7bn (Y2,2,009bn) with net profit of $847m. The Uniqlo brand still generates more than 82% of group sales (or $15bn), and over 70% of operating profit. GU is the clear number two brand at 12% of sales ($2.3bn), which is in turn more than double all the group's other businesses combined. Asia Pacific still accounts for around 90% of group revenues.
Capsule checked 17th August 2021
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Adbrands Weekly Update 5th July 2018: Tennis supremo Roger Federer has ended his 20-year partnership with Nike to sign a mammoth new contract with Japanese fashion label Uniqlo. The deal is worth $30m per year for at least a decade. As an added bonus, Uniqlo will allow Federer the unprecedented option of accepting secondary branding from other sponsors on his shirt. Since Uniqlo doesn't make tennis shoes, Federer is also sticking with Nike footwear, for the time being at least.
Adbrands Weekly Update 2nd Mar 2017: Ads of the Week: "AIRism". Japanese clothing store Uniqlo has a new set of ads out, developed by Droga5 London for the global market. Here's the best of the bunch, a stunning film shot in Santiago, Chile, designed to show off the store's innovative breathable fabric. However, we're guessing that's not real sweat going up in smoke. Or so we hope, because that would be just a little gross... But in CG form it's incredibly cool.
Adbrands Weekly Update 20th Oct 2016: Japanese fashion company Fast Retailing, which owns Uniqlo and other brands, scaled back future performance targets after weaker than expected results for the latest year. Revenues for the period to August rose 6% to the equivalent of just under $16bn, but net profits plunged by more than half to around $425m as a result of the strengthening Japanese currency and impairments against the group's secondary brands including J Brand denim in the US and Princesse Tam-Tam and Helmut Lang in Europe. CEO Tadashi Yanai scaled back his previously stated goal of 5 trillion yen ($46bn at current rates) by 2020 to 3 trillion yen. “Sales of 5 trillion yen might be delayed by a little, but I would like to achieve that in the near future,”he told investors.
Adbrands Weekly Update 18th Aug 2016: Ads of the Week "Why Do We Get Dressed?". The first global campaign from Japanese fashion chain Uniqlo, developed by Droga5 New York, asks some deep questions about our clothing choices. Why do we get dressed? Well the simple answer is that you'd get arrested if you ran down the street naked. However, Uniqlo says it's always evaluating fabric and colour choices and how they make you feel. This ad might not get you rushing to your local Uniqlo store, but it might get you thinking.
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