TOKYO — Fast Retailing Co. Ltd. has tapped former Bally chief executive officer Berndt Hauptkorn to helm the European business of its Uniqlo chain.
Hauptkorn starts his new job Wednesday as the ceo of Uniqlo Europe, a newly created role. Hauptkorn will report to both Nobuo Domae, executive vice president and Fast Retailing senior group officer, and to Fast Retailing ceo Tadashi Yanai, according to a company spokesman. Hauptkorn will be based between London and Paris.
A German national, Hauptkorn was Bally’s ceo from 2009 through 2011. During his tenure at the Swiss luxury brand, he hired the current design team of Graeme Fidler and Michael Herz, and expanded the company’s store network in Japan, Turkey and India. Prior to his Bally post, Hauptkorn was ceo of Vienna-based holding company Labelux, which bought Bally in 2008. Under Hauptkorn’s stewardship, Labelux’s portfolio grew to include Solange Azagury-Partridge, Derek Lam and Zagliani.
“I chose Berndt Hauptkorn because of his solid experience working in a global business. He is a natural fit for us, especially because we are looking to expand our global presence and business. It is just a coincidence that he has come from the luxury goods industry,” Yanai said. “As a region, Europe is becoming increasingly important to Uniqlo, so my expectation is that with Berndt at the helm we will be able to develop and grow our business.”
Yanai declined to answer additional questions on Uniqlo’s strategy for Europe or the macroeconomic conditions in the region.
While Uniqlo has hundreds of stores in Japan and elsewhere in Asia, it has a limited presence in Europe so far. As of the end of February, the brand had 12 stores in the U.K., two in France and two in Russia. Uniqlo International, which includes more than 200 stores in Asia as well as the European operations and three stores in New York, saw first-half sales grow 69 percent to 84.8 billion yen, or $1.05 billion at average exchange rates for the period, and operating profit advance 45 percent to 11.4 billion yen, or $141.4 million.
While those numbers are still small compared to Uniqlo’s business in Japan, the growth greatly exceeds what the company is registering on its home turf against a challenging macroeconomic backdrop. Fast Retailing expects international sales to surpass those of Japan in fiscal 2015. Granted, China and the rest of Asia accounts for the bulk of the growth. Uniqlo Japan’s first-half sales increased 6.6 percent to 364.5 billion yen, or $4.52 billion, while operating profit grew 2.7 percent to 72.2 billion yen, or $895.3 million. Fast Retailing’s first half ends in February.
When releasing its first-half numbers, Fast Retailing noted that France was performing according to plan with sales at its Paris Opera store continuing to rise. The company also noted “improved profitability” at its stores in Russia. But Fast Retailing said sales and earnings came in below target for its U.K. operations.
Prior to Hauptkorn’s appointment, Domae oversaw the European region and individual country managers reported to both him and Yanai. Fast Retailing has been looking to internationalize its executive ranks for some time. At one point late last year, the Japanese company unsuccessfully tried to woo former Prada chief operating officer Sebastian Suhl before he ultimately landed a job running Givenchy, according to sources familiar with the situation.
Hauptkorn declined to comment on his specific strategic priorities for Uniqlo, except that all European markets are “attractive” for the brand. Jil Sander’s collaboration with the brand helped Uniqlo develop a “cult following” in Europe that he hopes to exploit, he explained.
“European shoppers are hybrid: They look for quality, basics, style and unbeatable prices. Uniqlo is truly unique, scoring high along all these dimensions. I’m therefore convinced that the time is very right for Uniqlo also in Europe,” he said.
Hauptkorn said he was taken with Yanai’s ambitions to become the world’s largest fashion retailer and his new boss’ attention to detail. The executive said his experience in the luxury goods realm will make him a good fit for the Japanese company.
“Luxury is about proposing an attractive brand proposition, great product quality and an unforgettable shopping plus service experience. All of this requires a well-oiled business system, a talented, passionate team and daily attention to operational detail,” Hauptkorn said.
@tradesy is turning the concept of a showroom upside down with its new space in Santa Monica. Here, the company plans to hold events, art exhibits and a showcase rare fashion pieces like this Louis Vuitton boxing set. Get all the details on Tradesy’s first showroom on WWD.com. #wwdnews
Spotted last night at the @erdem x @hm launch event: Kate Bosworth, Rashida Jones, Kirsten Dunst and Selma Blair. The party, which took place in LA, also marked the opening of their pop-up shop. “I was interested in creating a collection that wasn’t in any way disposable. It was about pieces you’d create and keep forever, things that have a permanence to it,” designer Erdem Moralioglu said. #wwdeye (📷: Katie Jones)
Renee Zellweger in yellow in 2001 and again in 2017. Chosen as one of the 12 @pantone Leading Spring Colors (and dubbed “Meadowlark”), it only makes sense that the bright hue stands the test of time and is making a resurgence this season, seen already on stars like @blakelively and @gigihadid. (📷: Donato Sardello & @rexfeatures) #wwdfashion #tbt
Dior’s 70th anniversary celebration continues with a new exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. “Christian Dior,” which is scheduled to run through March 18, takes a look at the founders tenure from 1947 to 1057 and feature 40 designs. Pictured here is an evening gown from the Ailée, fall 1948-49 haute couture collection. #wwdfashion (📷: Brian Boyle)
As one of the most recognizable models in the world, Christy Turlington Burns has an insider’s view of the fashion industry and the allegations of sexual harassment swirling around it. “I can say that harassment and mistreatment have always been widely known and tolerated in the industry. The industry is surrounded by predators who thrive on the constant rejection and loneliness so many of us have experiences at some point in our careers,” Turlington told WWD, along with her suggestions for how the modeling world should protect younger women and men. Read more on WWD.com. Link in bio. (📷: Tony Palmieri) #wwdnews
@asics America has tapped a new brand ambassador: famed DJ/record producer @steveaoki. This initiative is intended to set the tone for the new brand identity and philosophy and will include partnerships with influencers and in-store and off-line activations that will continue into next year. This is Asics’ most significant marketing effort in two decades, and is expected to attract younger consumers to the brand. #wwdfashion
24-year-old Jean Prounis is redefining the rules of jewelry. Formerly a studio assistant to Jemima Kirke and a design apprentice at Ghuran, she focuses on handcrafted subtleties and ancient goldsmithing techniques. “There was a really sterile feel in the environment and I wanted to have jewelry with character that shapes how you wear it everyday,” Prounis said. Each piece is hand made in New York, either by Prounis or three other jewelers in the district. #wwdfashion
“These collections continue to build on that vision, empowering differently abled adults to express themselves through fashion,” said @tommyhilfiger of his line of adaptive apparel, which launches today. The line consists of 37 men’s and 34 women’s styles based upon the pieces from the spring Tommy Hilfiger sportswear collection. #wwdnews