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Uniqlo to Launch U.S. E-commerce Site

The fast fashion retailer presently operates e-commerce businesses in Japan, China, Korea, Taiwan and the U.K.

NEW YORK — Six years after opening its first U.S. store in SoHo, Uniqlo next week will finally launch an American e-commerce site.

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The Japanese retailer operates only five stores in the U.S., four in the New York-metro area and one in San Francisco. There’s great demand for Uniqlo products across the country, said Shin Odake, ceo of Uniqlo U.S., adding that the e-commerce site will allow Uniqlo to see where potential customers reside so it can consider opening stores there.

It’s no coincidence that Uniqlo earlier this month unveiled a San Francisco unit on Powell Street for its first foray to the West Coast. “Having a San Francisco store is a good opportunity to work with outside [tech] companies and experiment,” Odake said, referring to the Web site. “Hopefully, we can hire and find the talent. Global e-commerce is headquartered in Japan, but we’re open to moving the global headquarters to the U.S. We feel there’s more talent and more knowledge in the U.S. The fact that our San Francisco store is close to Silicon Valley was very attractive. We want to establish a relationship with the U.S. high-tech industry. We hope to learn from the U.S. market and make our Web experience better than it is today.”

Uniqlo operates e-commerce businesses in Japan, China, Korea, Taiwan and the U.K.

In an interview with WWD on Tuesday, Uniqlo’s chairman, president and chief executive officer, Tadashi Yanai, went even further in discussing Silicon Valley’s potential impact on the company’s e-commerce business. “At first, we’ll build an e-commerce model in the U.S.,” he said. “Then, we’re thinking of bringing that same model to other countries around the world. San Francisco is near Silicon Valley, so I want to make the [system] in the U.S.”

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The reason Uniqlo waited so long to introduce e-commerce in the U.S., Odake said, is “we just wanted to do this right. We were waiting for the right moment.”

Uniqlo has a goal of reaching $10 billion in sales in the U.S. by 2020, with about 20 percent of that coming from the Internet. “Judging from the market, I felt that 20 percent is a reasonable target,” Odake said. “Generally speaking, our competitors do close to 20 percent of their sales online.”

Uniqlo’s e-commerce site will be distinguished by an expanded size and color assortment other than what is sold in a store. Fleece jackets will come in 50 colors and men’s easy-care shirts in 115 sizes, whereas stores carry only six.

Like the launch of any other Uniqlo flagship, promotions are involved. The digital store’s opening will feature $9.90 Japanese engineered denim, ultralight down jackets, $49.90 and cashmere sweaters, $59.90 to $99.90.