Uniqlo Readies for Fifth Ave. Flagship Opening

The retail chain is greeting neighborhoods with a series of pop-up shops in advance of unveiling its new flagship in the fall.

A view of the Uniqlo cubes at the High Line roller skating rink.

NEW YORK — Manhattan, meet Uniqlo — the Manhattan beyond SoHo, where Uniqlo’s inaugural store opened in 2006, that is.

This story first appeared in the August 12, 2011 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

In advance of unveiling its 89,340-square-foot flagship at 666 Fifth Avenue in the fall, Uniqlo is greeting neighborhoods with a series of pop-up stores.

Three Uniqlo temporary brand shops will remain open through early fall. They include an 11,500-square-foot temporary space at 115 Fifth Avenue, between 21st and 22nd Streets in the Flatiron District, that opened Aug. 5. The space has 4,500 square feet on the ground floor, 4,500 square feet on the lower level and 2,500 square feet on the mezzanine.

Temporary stores are also popping up at 1880 Broadway and 62nd Street near Columbus Circle, and 2385 Broadway, between 87th and 88th Streets. Uniqlo is reportedly close to signing a lease for a fourth pop-up on the Upper East Side.

After opening its SoHo store in 2006, Uniqlo kept a low profile until 2010, when it unveiled the flagship on Fifth Avenue and 53rd Street, for which it agreed to pay $300 million over the course of a 15-year lease, or about $20 million a year — a record at the time. The Japanese retail giant has been aiming to attract attention with projects like the High Line Rink — Made for All by Uniqlo, an outdoor roller skating rink under the High Line that opened last month and will close on Sept. 26.

“Uniqlo Counts Down Toward Flagship Opening” is the message on a microsite that lists the addresses and hours of the pop-up shops.

The retailer is planning to open a third Manhattan store on 34th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues in late fall.

Karen Bellantoni, a retail broker at Robert K. Futterman & Assoc., who represented the landlord, Eretz Group, along with Eretz in-house representative Melissa Rose, said, “We can grow the space to accommodate them.” However, a source close to the retailer said, “Permanent is not the objective. [The pop-up] stores are just to get people familiar with Uniqlo. They’re doing it for brand awareness. This is an attempt to get into the neighborhoods and shopping areas that aren’t SoHo.”

To give brand awareness an extra boost, Uniqlo is planting “cubes” that glow from within at strategic locations around Manhattan. Four cubes, which open like vaults, were plunked down at the High Line roller skating rink at the end of July. The cubes contain dressing rooms and sell a variety of merchandise.