By  on July 29, 2014

Uniqlo isn’t entering the Midwest quietly.

Its first store in the region will be a 60,000-square-foot flagship at 830 North Michigan Avenue in Chicago, the Japanese retailer’s second largest store in the U.S. The Chicago unit is set to open in fall 2015 in the heart of the city’s downtown and part of the Magnificent Mile, where neighbors will include Topshop and H&M.

Only Uniqlo’s global flagship on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue surpasses the Chicago store in size with 90,000 square feet of space. Uniqlo stores range from 30,000 square feet to 40,000 square feet on main streets in midsize cities and 10,000 square feet to 40,000 square feet in regional and super regional malls.

“Chicago is a global city that’s home to some of the finest cultural and sports institutions in the world, and we are [pleased] to join the city’s rich landscape,” said Larry Meyer, ceo of Uniqlo USA. “We look forward to bringing our innovative, high-quality apparel, world-class customer service and modern, bright store aesthetic to the people of Chicago.”

With only 21 stores in the Northeast and San Francisco, Uniqlo will nearly double its fleet in the fall when it launches 18 units in eight weeks. That’s a more aggressive schedule than last fall’s 10 store openings.

On Aug. 29, Uniqlo will unveil six stores, including a flagship in Boston, followed by units in Philadelphia and Southern California, including South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, Calif., and Beverly Center in Los Angeles.

“Those 18 stores include some in existing markets such as Northern California and metro New York,” said Meyer, citing Walnut Creek, Calif., Willowbrook Mall in Wayne, N.J., and Roosevelt Field Mall in Garden City, N.Y.

Last month during a speech at the Japan Society, Meyer said the retailer wants to become dominant in the U.S. For that to happen, the American business will have to generate meaningful numbers, Meyer said, adding that the U.S. must contribute significantly to the company’s $11.6 billion in worldwide sales. Uniqlo, he pointed out, does $7 billion in its home market of Japan, which has a smaller population than the U.S.

“We will become a multibillion-dollar company in the U.S.,” he predicted.

“We hired a lot of people in the last year,” Meyer said. “We will now fill out [the ranks] below them. I want to stay away from looking at specialty retail. I want e-commerce people and big-box people, where the volumes tend to be higher. We built [a team] for the entire U.S. rollout of the first 100 stores.”

Staffing up the company has been a priority for Meyer, who said, “It’s important that we continue to build out the teams to operate our stores. Because of our dedication to high standards of customer service, it takes a lot of time to train people and we do that as we expand. It takes time to build out those ranks. We need to be recruiting all the time.”

Meyer said the Chicago store will incorporate all or most of the product categories sold in the Fifth Avenue flagship. All of the new fall stores have 100 percent eco-friendly store design with LED lighting, greener materials and high-efficiency elements throughout. Women’s and children’s products will be presented as specialty shop-in-shop environments.

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