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Fast Retailing’s Aggressive China Plans

Sales rose 17 percent as the Japanese retail giant lifted its full-year profit forecast.

Uniqlo Marché in Tokyo.

TOKYO — Fast Retailing Co. Ltd. has big plans for China.

This story first appeared in the April 12, 2013 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

“We’re aiming to open 100 stores a year in China, with the goal of reaching 1,000 stores there,” Fast Retailing’s chairman, president and chief executive officer Tadashi Yanai said at a press briefing at the Tokyo Stock Exchange Thursday.

The group recently revealed plans to open its largest global Uniqlo flagship in Shanghai in the fall. The new store will cover an area of more than 70,000 square feet.

China is key to Fast Retailing’s ongoing growth as the company continues its push to be the world’s largest apparel retailer by 2020. Yanai said Thursday that by the year 2020 he is targeting total sales of 5 trillion yen, or $50.32 billion at current exchange rates.

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The China openings form only part of Fast Retailing’s global expansion plan. The company will open its first store in Indonesia in June, as well as a store in Melbourne, Australia, sometime next year. Yanai said Fast Retailing is also looking to enter the Indian market, and in Europe it is targeting Berlin, Barcelona and Milan.

In the six months ended Feb. 28, Fast Retailing added 67 Uniqlo stores outside of Japan, including 37 in China. At the end of the period, the retailer operated 847 Uniqlo stores in Japan and 359 elsewhere in the world.

Yanai revealed Fast Retailing’s plans as the retailer reported first-half net profits grew 13.2 percent and raised its net profit and sales forecasts for the full year, citing the benefits of a weak yen.

The company said that net profit for the six months ended Feb. 28 rose to 65.45 billion yen, or $785.40 million at average exchange rates for the period.

Operating profit for the period increased 5.3 percent to 96.66 billion yen, or $1.16 billion.

First-half sales rose 17 percent to 614.84 billion yen, or $7.38 billion.

Fast Retailing raised its full-year net profit forecast to 91.5 billion yen, or $920.86 million. This would represent year-on-year growth of 27.7 percent. In January, when releasing its first-quarter numbers, the retailer said that it expected net profits to come in at 87 billion yen, or $875.57 million.

The company left unchanged its operating profit guidance, predicting they will grow 16.6 percent to 146.5 billion yen, or $1.47 billion.

The retailer upped the sales forecast to 1.1 trillion yen, or $11.1 billion, an increase of 18.8 percent over the previous fiscal year. It previously predicted sales would come in at 1.07 trillion yen, or $10.77 billion.

Fast Retailing said each of its main business sectors registered growth in the first half of the year.

Uniqlo’s sales in Japan, still its biggest market, rose 6.2 percent to 387.25 billion yen, or $4.54 billion, in the first half of the year.

Uniqlo’s international sales clocked a much bigger jump, rising 54 percent to 130.66 billion yen, or $1.57 billion, helped by aggressive overseas expansion and the weakening of the yen.

Sales of Fast Retailing’s global brands business, which includes Theory, Princesse Tam Tam, Comptoir des Cotonniers, G.U. and J Brand, grew by 27.8 percent to 95.73 billion yen, or $1.15 billion.

Fast Retailing’s shares have been performing strongly on the Tokyo Stock Exchange recently. On Thursday, they rose 3.1 percent to end the session at 34,500 yen, or $347.21.

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