By  on August 29, 2005

NEW YORK — Uniqlo, the Japanese retailer that's often compared with Gap Inc., has no stores here, but New Yorkers will get a taste of its style when a pop-up shop opens at 252 Lafayette Street on Thursday.

The unit, which will remain open through Sept. 30, bows on the eve of three permanent stores that Uniqlo is opening in New Jersey.

“It’s more for public relations purposes,” Mike Kiser, Uniqlo’s marketing chief, said. “Frankly, not many media would go all the way out to New Jersey to see our stores. It’s a good way to showcase what we have to the fashion crowd.”

The 800-square-foot pop-up store will be called Uniqlo@Vice, because it replaces the Vice shop, an outgrowth of the magazine of the same name.

Asked whether the stealth shop is a test of the New York waters, Kiser said: “We just really want to get our New Jersey stores going and see how that goes. That will determine if we move on or not.”

Uniqlo, which operates 670 stores in Japan, has a 44.5 percent stake in Theory, the contemporary brand, and recently purchased the Comptoir des Cotonniers specialty chain in France. It posted $3.5 billion in sales last year.

Kiser said he didn’t know how much money the pop-up store could make, but noted that it’s cheaper than advertising. “Instead of having a billboard, we’re having a store,” he said.

The pop-up shop is considerably smaller than Uniqlo’s typical stores, which are 8,000 to 10,000 square feet.

“It’s just a snippet of what we have,” he said. Key items the company wants to showcase include cashmere sweaters, priced from $49.50 to $79.50, and a denim collection with stretch fabric and unique washes. Jeans exclusive to the U.S. are embroidered with plum blossoms. In addition, there will be T-shirts and sweats.

Most of Uniqlo’s product will retail for $39.50, Kiser said.

“The Vice buyers were involved with the product selection,” he added. “They helped match the collection to the SoHo customers.”

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