Uniqlo Co., Ltd. (株式会社ユニクロ Kabushiki-gaisha Yunikuro) (pronounced "YOU-nee-klo" in English) is a Japanese casual wear designer, manufacturer and retailer. The company has been a wholly owned subsidiary of Fast Retailing Co., Ltd. since November 2005.
In addition to Japan, the company operates in fourteen countries globally.
Origins in Japan
Since March 1949, a Yamaguchi-based company, Ogori Shōji (which, until then, had been operating men's clothing shops called "Men's Shop OS") existed in Ube, Yamaguchi.
In May 1984, they opened a unisex casual wear store in Fukuro-machi, Naka-ku, Hiroshima under the name "Unique Clothing Warehouse". Initially, from the contraction of "unique clothing", the brand was going to register under "uni-clo". However, in 1988, during administration work between Hong Kong in relation to the brand, staff in charge of registration misread the "C" as "Q", and that is how the brand name was born. From then, Tadashi Yanai changed the store name to "uniqlo" across Japan . In September 1991, the name of the company was changed from "Ogori Shōji" to "Fast Retailing", and by April 1994, there were over 100 Uniqlo stores operating throughout Japan.
In 1997, Fast Retailing adopted a set of strategies from American retailer The Gap, known as “SPA” (for specialty-store/retailer of private-label apparel), meaning that they would produce their own clothing and sell it exclusively. They engaged the retail brand consultancy, / , to guide the company through the realization of this strategy, including consulting on merchandise, visual merchandising and display, store design and a new logo designed by and Sy Chen of The Brand Architect Group’s Los Angeles office. Uniqlo had begun outsourcing their clothing manufacturing to factories in China where labour was cheap, a well-established corporate practice. Japan was in the depths of a recession at the time, and the low-cost goods proved popular. Their advertising campaigns, clothing quality and new retail layouts also proved fruitful.
|“||In creating its clothing lines, Uniqlo embraces both shun and kino-bi. Shun [旬] means 'timing, best timing, but also at the same time it's a trend,' something that's updated and just in time, neither early nor late. The company offers clothing basics, but basics that are current, that respond to what's going on today in art and design. Kino-bi [機能美] means function and beauty, joined together: the clothing is presented in an organized, rational manner, and that very organization and rationality creates an artistic pattern and rhythm. All these qualities reflect the defining characteristics of modern Japanese culture, modern 'Japaneseness.'||”|
|— Nobuo Domae, CEO, Uniqlo USA (April 2007)|
In November 1998, they opened their first urban Uniqlo store in Tokyo’s trendy Harajuku district, and outlets soon spread to major cities throughout Japan. In 2001, sales turnover and gross profit reached a new peak, with over 500 retail stores in Japan. When Uniqlo decided to expand overseas, it separated Uniqlo from the parent company, and established Fast Retailing (Jiangsu) Apparel Co., Ltd. in China. In 2002 their first Chinese Uniqlo outlet was opened in Shanghai along with four overseas outlets in London, England.
But sales did not go well in England, and stocks in Japanese warehouses were overflowing. In 2002 and 2003, Uniqlo profits dropped sharply. In 2004, the company began joint ventures with Japanese fashion magazines, and hired such celebrities as Norika Fujiwara to appear in commercials. They teamed up with new designers, and profits rose, including at London outlets. The acquisition of other fashion companies by Fast Retailing also helped the struggling company get back on its feet.
2005 saw more overseas expansion, with stores opening in the United States (New York), Hong Kong (Tsim Sha Tsui) and South Korea (Seoul), their South Korean expansion being part of a joint venture with Lotte. As of year-end 2005, in addition to its overseas holdings, Uniqlo had around 700 stores within Japan. By 2006 sales were $4 billion. By April 2007, the company had set a global sales goal of $10 billion and a ranking among the top five global retailers, joining what at the time was Gap, H&M, Inditex, and Limited Brands.
Fast Retailing signed a design consulting contract for Uniqlo products with fashion designer Jil Sander in March 2009. Shiatzy Chen has been approached by Uniqlo to produce a capsule collection of ready to wear pieces to launch in November 2010 while Asia's largest Uniqlo store outside Japan opened its doors in Kuala Lumpur in the same month.
Former No. 1 player in the World Golf Ranking Adam Scott wore Uniqlo when he won the 2013 Masters at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia, USA.
Current No. 1 ATP tennis player Novak Djokovic has been wearing Uniqlo apparel since May 2012 with the 2012 French Open the first tournament where he competed in Uniqlo clothing. Already a 5-time Grand Slam champion when he signed with the Japanese brand, Djokovic has since won seven more Grand Slams with Uniqlo — 2013, 2015, and 2016 Australian Open, 2016 French Open - Men's Singles, 2015 US Open as well as 2014 and 2015 Wimbledon.
Japanese No. 1 Kei Nishikori is another prominent tennis player endorsing Uniqlo.
On September 2, 2009, Fast Retailing Co., Ltd. announced that the company would target annual group sales of 5 trillion yen (about 61.2 billion US dollars) and pretax profit from operations of 1 trillion yen (about 12.2 billion US dollars) by 2020. This means that the company is aiming to become the world’s biggest Specialty retailer of Private label Apparel with a continuous growth rate of 20% per year. The figure breaks down as one trillion yen from Uniqlo’s Japan business, three trillion yen from its international business, and one trillion yen from The company’s international business target breaks down as one trillion yen in China, one trillion in other Asian countries and one trillion in Europe and the United States.
Their first store opened on 16 April 2014 at Emporium Melbourne, Melbourne CBD and their second store opened on 17 September 2014 at Chadstone Shopping Centre, Chadstone. A third store opened at Eastland Shopping Centre on 29 October 2015. In Sydney a third store opened on 16 October 2014 at Macquarie Centre, North Ryde and their fourth store opened on 13 November 2014 at Mid City Centre. A new store has opened on 30 May 2015 at Westfield Miranda south of Sydney. Uniqlo opened its first stores in Queensland in late 2015, with the introduction of two Brisbane stores at the Queen Street Mall and the Indooroopilly Shopping Centre.
Uniqlo opened its first store in Belgium in Antwerp on 2 October 2015. The store is located on the Meir, Antwerp's most prominent shopping street.
In January 2015, Uniqlo announced that it plans to open two stores in Toronto in 2016, along with a goal of expanding to Vancouver soon after. The two locations will be at Toronto Eaton Centre and Yorkdale Mall.
As of July 2013, there were 211 stores in China, including in Beijing, Guangzhou, Chongqing, Chengdu, Nanjing, Ningbo, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Shijia, Tianjin and Xi'an. Uniqlo entered the Chinese market in 2002.
In May 2011, the magazine Shukan Bunshun published a story alleging that Uniqlo had forced employees at its stores and factories in China to work long hours for little pay. In response, Uniqlo unsuccessfully sued the weekly's publisher, Bungeishunjū, for ¥220 million for libel.
A 2015 online video of a couple having sex in a Beijing Uniqlo store changing room became notorious among Chinese internet users. Chinese police arrested at least five people in connection with the incident, allegedly including the couple and three other disseminators of the video, for having 'severely violated socialist core values'. The New York Times noted that the store's exterior had become a popular venue for people to gather and take pictures in poses reminiscent of the video.
In December 2007, Uniqlo opened its first store in France in La Défense. On October 1, 2009, a flagship store opened in Paris close to the Opéra, followed by a second flagship store in Le Marais district in 2014. Another store opened the same year in Marseilles, in the Terrasses du Port shopping mall. On November 17, 2014, Uniqlo opened its first store in Eastern France (and the second store in France outside Greater Paris) in the city of Strasbourg.
Currently, the brand have 10 stores in France, mostly in Paris Area.
Hong Kong & Macau (China)
With its first store opening in 2005, there are now 25 Uniqlo stores in Hong Kong. Locations include New Town Plaza, APM, Plaza Hollywood, Harbour City, Festival Walk, Sunshine City Plaza and Citywalk. The Macau store is located in The Venetian Macao.
In 2005, Uniqlo introduced its first store in South Korea. In November 2011, Uniqlo generated more than 2 billion won ($1.7 million) in one day’s sales on November 11 when it opened Asia’s largest flagship store in central Seoul. The sales figure was the highest ever set by a fashion outlet in Korea. 93 markets spreads around Korea in 2013.
Uniqlo opened its first store in the Philippines on June 15, 2012 at the SM Mall of Asia. And a second branch at the country's 2nd largest shopping mall, the SM City North EDSA. The opening of its 2nd store serves as a fitting follow-up to the very successful opening of Uniqlo's first store in the Philippines in June 2012 at the Mall of Asia. Uniqlo opened its third store at the SM Aura Premier and its fourth store at the SM City Pampanga. After a year, Uniqlo had opened two stores—SM City Fairview on June 14 and Glorietta on June 28. The Glorietta store opening marks Uniqlo’s first anniversary in the Philippines. The SM City BF Parañaque and SM City Clark branches were opened on November 30, 2013 while the SM City Dasmariñas branch was opened on December 6, 2013. The SM City Bacolod and SM City Iloilo branches were opened on June 17, 2016.
Uniqlo Philippines COO Katsumi Kubota said that the company is opening at least 200 outlets in the country by 2020, when he was interviewed at the SM City Clark during the third anniversary of the global retail brand. It started with five branches three years ago and now has 27 stores,
Uniqlo had 23 outlets in Singapore in 2015. They are part of a franchise owned by wing Tai Holdings. Entered the Singapore market in 2009.
Uniqlo opened in Taipei on October 7, 2010, with the opening of the Hankyu department store, which was followed by rapid expansion throughout the island and the debut of a flagship store in 2011. As a part of an aggressive expansion strategy, Uniqlo has established storefronts in cities such as Kaohsiung, Tainan, Taichung, Pingtung, and Hsinchu.
Uniqlo opened its first store at CentralWorld, Bangkok on 9 September 2011. The store is Uniqlo's largest in Southeast Asia, with retail space of approximately 2,700 square metres (29,000 sq ft). There are currently 32 stores in Thailand; 21 stores in Bangkok and 11 stores across major cities in Thailand, including 2 stores in Chiang Mai, Pattaya, Hatyai, Koh Samui, Phuket, Udon Thani, Rayong, Si Racha, Surat Thani and Khonkaen. More stores are to be open soon, including 3 in Bangkok, 1 in Phuket, 1 in Nakhon Si Thammarat, 2 in Nakhon Ratchasima, and 1 in Ubon Ratchathani.
In 2005, Uniqlo launched in the U.S. market by "quietly" opening three mall stores in New Jersey: Menlo Park, Rockaway Townsquare, and Freehold Raceway. In November 2006, Uniqlo opened its first store in the SoHo fashion district of Manhattan, New York City. New fashion designers joined the store's team to boost and rebirth fashion concepts catering to the U.S. market. The opening of the Manhattan store was followed, in September 2007, by the closing of Uniqlo's three New Jersey locations, leaving it with only one US location. In October 2011, Uniqlo opened its second and third stores on Fifth Avenue and 34th Street near Herald Square in New York City. On September 28, 2012 Uniqlo opened its largest mall store worldwide in the Westfield Garden State Plaza in Paramus, New Jersey, serving as the model for the retailer's future mall locations.
As part of Fast Retailing's 2020 plan the company has stated that it plans to generate $10 billion in annual sales in the United States from 200 stores, which will lead to a location in every major U.S. city. This goal was stated when the company's only U.S. presence was its handful of stores in the New York City area, soon after the company began an aggressive expansion in the United States. In October 2012 the company expanded into the San Francisco market with the opening of its first West Coast store on Powell Street in San Francisco's Union Square. In January 2014, Uniqlo announced it would open an additional five new stores in the United States for the spring and summer of 2014, with further new stores being planned for the fall in the new markets of Boston, Philadelphia, and the Los Angeles/Southern California region. In May 2014, the first store in the Philadelphia area opened at King of Prussia Mall. While in September 2014, two stores located at the Glendale Galleria and the Northridge Fashion Center were opened, marking Uniqlo's entrance to the LA/Southern California market. In October 2015, Uniqlo opened its first store in the Midwest with a flagship Chicago store on Michigan Avenue. Uniqlo also expanded into the greater Seattle region with a new store which in Bellevue, Washington that opened in November 2015. During July, 2016, Uniqlo opened its first Florida store at Disney Springs.
The Uniqlo Designers Invitation Project saw the invitation of women's wear designers Phillip Lim, Alice Roi, Tina Lutz and Marcia Patmos of Lutz & Patmos, Alper, and GVGV; and men’s wear designers Halb, Satoru Tanaka, and Alexandre Plokhov of Cloak to each design capsule collections of eight looks for Spring/Summer 2007.
4 additional designers/labels were asked for the 2009 Designers Invitation Project. Women's wear saw boutique owner Steven Alan and Shipley & Halmos, while men's wear include Opening Ceremony and Gilded Age.
In October 2012 Uniqlo has teamed up with French label Comptoir des Cotonniers to create a light down formula jacket inspired by the iconic boxy-cut style fusing French fashion and Japanese technology. "We wanted to use an easy sophisticated shape perfect for all elements of a women's lifestyle." said Comptoir style director Delphine Ninous.
T-shirt convenience store
A store concept called "UT Project", a futuristic convenience store for T-shirts, was launched on April 28, 2007 in Harajuku, Tokyo. Each T-shirt style is displayed on forms in stainless steel display cases, with individual T-shirts packaged in clear plastic canisters resembling tennis ball cans. The T-shirts are stored on open shelves, making the shopping experience virtually self-service.
The project featured a limited-edition collection of T-shirts designed by renowned artists, designers, photographers and musicians including Terry Richardson, Nobuyoshi Araki, Bjorn Copeland of Black Dice, Kim Jones, Peter Saville, Gareth Pugh.
Uniqlock Flash animation
Uniqlock, a web-based Flash widget and downloadable screensaver combination of Music-Dance-Clock, was launched in June 2007. Season 1 features four girls auditioned from YouTube wearing Uniqlo's 20 color dry polo shirt, dancing freestyles similar to ballet, with background music composed by Fantastic Plastic Machine. Blog-parts were Flash components provided so that Uniqlock can be inserted into individual blog pages. Uniqlock soon gained popularity, as shown in its World Uniqlock page. Until November 2008 there were up to 191 million clicks from over 200 countries, with up to 40,000 blog-parts in 88 countries. Uniqlock Season 2, launched in November 2007, showing cashmere knits, with the same dancers, dance style, as well background. The movie quality was improved, and dancers would appear to be asleep if the time in the specified region is nighttime. Also in each hour special clips would be shown instead; Season 2 features 2 men playing music, doing cleanup chores. In season 3 20 color T-shirt promotion, 4 new dancers were introduced in addition to the original 4, switched by hour. On August 31, 2009, Season Six premiered in the new setting of Paris, France. The clock's time was also changed to display the time in Paris.
In 2010, Uniqlo partnered with Grameen Healthcare Trust in Bangladesh to promote social businesses. The social businesses are aimed to address issues of poverty, illiteracy and poor sanitation, by selling clothes that the poor can afford, with profits invested in these businesses.  Within three years, the goal of this initiative is to create 1,500 jobs and have a total of 1 million units of production and sales.
Pharrell Williams' Capsule Collection
The German fashion designer Jil Sander, appreciated for her minimalist aesthetic, joined Uniqlo in 2009, and was appointed creative director of the brand's menswear and womenswear - as well as launching a new label, +J collection, which won 2011 Brit Insurance Design Fashion Award. Sander sees a thrill in offering a utopian ideal of high-quality clothing to the masses. 'I like the concept of basic clothes in a democratic world,' she said. 'Uniqlo reminds me of Apple Computers; fantastic design for everyone. And I like what is Japanese about Uniqlo, a strong sense of tradition, the orderly approach to everything, great know-how and logistics.'
Locations by country