By  on December 8, 2006

TOKYO — After opening a mega-store in New York, Uniqlo now has its eyes on Shanghai, Paris and Milan.

The fashion retailer, which opened a 36,000-square-foot store on Broadway in Manhattan last month, will open a store of about 25,000 square feet in Shanghai on Saturday. "It's the fastest and most certain way to become a global brand," Tadashi Yanai, chairman, president and chief executive of Uniqlo parent Fast Retailing, told WWD Japan.

Last year Uniqlo opened stores in Seoul and Hong Kong, as well as three units in New Jersey. In the U.K., it currently has eight stores.

Yanai said the next steps will be to open flagships in Paris next year and then one in Milan at a later date.

The ceo has shifted Uniqlo's strategy toward first opening a flagship in major cities, then following with smaller units in each country. "Last year we opened flagships in Tokyo's Ginza [district] and Hong Kong and gained a confidence in this strategy," said Yanai.

Before, Uniqlo preferred to open a string of smaller stores to gain momentum in individual markets. However, that strategy often backfired — as it did in the U.K., where it opened a chain of stores in 2001 but later had to scale back and focus on London once the units in smaller cities proved unsuccessful.

For the fiscal year ended Aug. 31, the firm generated sales of 4.5 trillion yen, or $40 billion at current exchange rates, a 16.9 percent increase from the previous year. Uniqlo opened its first shop in Hiroshima, Japan, in 1984 and currently has some 700 stores worldwide.

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