By  on December 12, 2006

Sweden's Hennes & Mauritz said Monday it would open its first store in Japan in 2008, pointing to a period of accelerating growth for European fast-fashion firms in Asia.

Construction has started on the 15,000-square-foot shop, which will be located in Tokyo's Harajuku shopping district. It is expected to be the first of a string of stores in Japan for H&M.

"Japan is an exciting market for H&M, with fashion-conscious consumers with great spending power," said Rolf Eriksen, H&M's chief executive officer, in a statement. "With a population of 128 million, and almost 13 million in Tokyo, we see great opportunities for expansion in this part of the world."

Elsewhere in Asia, H&M plans to open its first stores in China next year, a riposte to the first stores that Spain's Zara opened in the country earlier this year.

Zara has said sales at the China units have been better than expected, which suggests the country, a major focus for European luxury houses, also could be ripe for fast-fashion players.

As for Japan, Zara earlier this year said it planned to accelerate its development in the island nation with five to 10 stores by the end of fiscal 2006. Zara has operated in Japan for several years.

Meanwhile, Japan's Uniqlo chain, known for its basic apparel, last week indicated it plans to take on Europe, saying it would open its first store in Paris next year, with a shop to follow in Milan. Uniqlo opened a Manhattan flagship earlier this year and already has stores in the U.K.

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