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Fashion for the People

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As part of its quest to become the “world’s No. 1 apparel retailer” and generate $50 billion in global sales — including $10 billion in U.S. sales — by 2020, Japan-based Uniqlo opened two unique “flagship” stores in the heart of Manhattan’s busiest shopping districts this fall.

At 89,000 sq. ft., the store at Fifth Avenue and 53rd Street is the company’s largest, boasting 49,800 sq. ft. of selling space. Its 64,000-sq.-ft. store in Herald Square is the second-largest Uniqlo store worldwide.

Both units — models for future Uniqlo stores — are designed to take your breath away. Shoppers who walk into the Fifth Avenue Uniqlo find themselves canopied under a three-story vaulted ceiling and faced with a sleek staircase accessorized with color-changing LED lighting. Similar lights and LCD color screens are used throughout the store to project digital images of men and women modeling what’s currently on sale.

A floor-to-ceiling LCD screen forms the middle of a second-floor wall in the Fifth Avenue store, projecting scenes of New Yorkers in everyday life as well as Uniqlo associates as they go about their jobs. Mannequins continuously spin on pedestals, giving customers a 360-degree view of the styles they are wearing.

There are 50 POS displays set in stainless steel counters throughout the store. A customer service counter allows shoppers to drop off used Uniqlo items: The retailer dry cleans the garments and donates them to people in need throughout the world, one of a large number of charitable undertakings.

Integrated business model
Uniqlo clothes are developed through an integrated business model under which the company designs, manufactures and markets its goods. All products are made of high-quality fabrics and there are design innovations in almost every piece; a fiber technology quickly absorbs and dries moisture, for instance, neutralizing perspiration to keep the fabric fresh. Uniqlo’s designers have also developed a protective UV filtration process that is added to some fabrics during processing.

The clothes reflect Uniqlo’s “Made for All” philosophy: The designs are made to be universal, something for men and women of all ages, tastes and lifestyles, and the pricing is affordable. Recent in-store promotions included women’s V-neck cashmere sweaters, normally priced at $89.90, on sale for $49.90, and men’s and women’s premium down ultra light jackets, regularly priced at $79.90, on sale for $59.90. A limited run of special edition men’s and women’s skinny and regular fit jeans were on sale for $9.90.

Yasunobu Kyogoku, COO for Uniqlo USA, says the company’s goal “is to gain share of wallet by providing great quality, the highest value, great prices with fashions for all.”

Opening two flagship units in the same major market within weeks of each other created marketing efficiencies for Uniqlo. In addition to a public relations blitz that began last July with “pop up” stores scattered throughout the city, Uniqlo had six “glowing” Uniqlo Cubes dispatched to street fairs and city events, and its ads are prominent in subways, subway stations and high-traffic locations throughout Manhattan.

A part of Japan’s Fast Retailing group, Uniqlo has nearly 1,000 stores in 12 countries. Its first U.S. store, opened five years ago in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood, is one of the brand’s most successful locations, Kyogoku says.

The company is currently looking for additional locations in New York as well as in other major U.S. cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago.