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SINGAPORE — Uniqlo is expanding its global reach.
The Japanese brand will open its first store here on Thursday. The 8,700-square-foot unit is in Tampines, a suburban residential district in the Eastern part of the island. It’s the first of eight Uniqlo stores planned for the city state. A 10,000-square-foot space is set for August at the Orchard Ion, a luxury mall set to take a prime spot on Singapore’s premier shopping street.
Six more stores are planned in the next three years with the third one to be announced once negotiations are completed.
Singapore is Uniqlo’s first Southeast Asian outlet. It was picked as a launchpad into the region because of its strategic location and its reputation as a retail hub.
“We want to be number one in every country we enter,” Tadashi Yanai, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Uniqlo parent Fast Retailing Co. Ltd., said at a news conference here Monday. “Asia is a priority for us because it is a huge market, even more so when one includes China and India, which have the largest populations. If we become number one there, we would be number one in the world.’’
Fast Retailing has linked with a local partner here. The Japanese company holds 51 percent of Uniqlo’s Singapore operations, and Wing Tai Retail controls 49 percent.
“The Singapore stores will be Uniqlo’s first in a tropical country. And therefore…will be a good way for Uniqlo to find out more about the buying patterns and habits of consumers in hotter climates,’’ said Helen Khoo, executive director of Wing Tai Retail.
This would facilitate Uniqlo’s eventual expansion into India and the Middle East, regions where it has yet to introduce its formula of high-quality yet reasonably priced candy-colored basics, she said.
Uniqlo also plans a move into Malaysia.
“Our focus now for the next three years will be Singapore before we think of opening in other countries [in Southeast Asia],” said Satoshi Onoguchi, Uniqlo’s Singapore managing director.
Executives seemed unfazed by the global economic crisis. “What we have always provided is sensibly priced clothing,” said Albert Chew, co-managing director of Uniqlo Singapore. “And in a recession, we believe even more customers will be focusing on value for their money.’’
The brand, which recently hired German designer Jil Sander to oversee its men’s and women’s apparel collections, has 836 stores in Japan as well as the U.S., U.K., France, China, Hong Kong and South Korea.
The Singapore stores will carry the brand’s famous UT T-shirts — a range of limited edition designer Ts — as well as its popular denim range.
Sander’s first collection for Uniqlo, which will be released in September, will be sold in Singapore.
“We will stock the Singapore stores with almost everything that is available in our Japan stores,” Onoguchi said. “The only difference is that we will probably bring in a smaller proportion of our fall-winter collections.