Uniqlo has made no secret of its ambition to reach $10 billion in sales in North America by 2020. The question has always been: How will the company reach that goal with just three stores in New York?
“We obviously need to begin this national expansion,” said Yasunobu Kyogoku, chief operating officer of Uniqlo USA, who is leading the expansion. “We want to have hundreds and hundreds of stores.
“I believe there are more opportunities in Manhattan as well as in New Jersey and Connecticut. We’re looking at the larger Tristate area. Also, Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago, Washington, D.C. and other major cities are on our radar screen. In Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington, D.C. there’s room for multiple stores. Our intention is to have multiple stores in each market and be present as a very prominent retailer,” he added.
Proving its national expansion goals, the Japanese fast-fashion brand has signed a lease for a 29,000-square-foot flagship at 111 Powell Street near Union Square in San Francisco. “It’s the center of innovation and hi-tech and software,” Kyogoku said of San Francisco. “It’s very important for us to be present in that market in a big way.”
Kyogoku said Uniqlo is opening a West Coast operations office in San Francisco to handle “logistics, human resources and the infrastructure one needs to put in place to facilitate expansion.” Prior to the opening of its Fifth Avenue flagship in New York last October, Uniqlo hired 50 store managers and took them to Japan for training, Kyogoku said. Some of the managers who were trained and work at the New York stores will be transferred to San Francisco. “We’re getting ready to hire the second wave of our manager-in-training program and take them to Japan,” he said.
Uniqlo said it will open mall stores and is having ongoing discussions with major landlords and real estate investment trusts.
Kyogoku admitted Uniqlo will have to build up its brand recognition on the West Coast, where it’s had limited exposure. A spokeswoman declined to say whether Uniqlo would use shipping containers transformed into pop-up stores to promote the brand in San Francisco as it had in New York. “Anything we’ve done in the past, we’re considering,” she said. “But if we were to do that, we’d try to do it in a way that’s unique to San Francisco.”