FORGING AHEAD: Fast Retailing chairman, president and chief executive Tadashi Yanai said Wednesday that ongoing Japan-China tensions haven’t derailed Uniqlo’s production or retail growth strategy in China.
“I think we, Japan and China, need to partner better,” he said at a product presentation for the Japanese fast-fashion company. The executive did not elaborate further.
Japanese journalists took advantage of the press conference to ask Yanai multiple questions about how a territorial dispute between China and Japan over a small chain of islands is affecting Uniqlo’s business. Yanai’s pr team repeatedly stepped in to shield questions not related to the products being presented.
Fast Retailing temporarily closed 60 of its Uniqlo stores in China on Tuesday as anti-Japan protests took place in several Chinese cities. Last week, Yanai said that some Japanese consumers reacted negatively to an incident involving a Uniqlo Shanghai store manager and might initiate a boycott of Uniqlo products. Uniqlo also produces many of its garments in China.
At the presentation, Uniqlo and Japanese textile giant Toray Industries unveiled new products and improvements in the Uniqlo brand’s Heattech and Ultra Light Down product lines. Both series use fabrics and technologies developed by Toray, and are two of Uniqlo’s staple lines for fall and winter. The fast-fashion giant sold over 100 million units of Heattech products alone last year.
During the press conference, Yanai praised Toray as one of the most innovative companies in the world, producing consistently high quality products, but stressed that Uniqlo’s expertise in merchandising, marketing, apparel production and sales is just as important to the partnership.
“In order for Toray’s research to be felt by consumers, the end product must be very good,” Yanai said. “We have to come up with something that has never existed before.”
This fall, Uniqlo will be offering over twice as many variations on its Heattech and Ultra Light Down products as it did last year. New to the offering will be women’s loungewear and baby items in the Heattech line, and a three-quarter length men’s coat in the Ultra Light Down series.