Japan’s Uniqlo bent on world domination, reasonably priced socks

October 9th, 2009 by Jason Jenkins

Back in 2001, an up-and-coming retailer from Hiroshima opened a branch of its reasonably priced wares in the swank Ginza district. Even then people considered this a bold move by Uniqlo, whose casual, utilitarian fashions were considered unworthy of high street. Now fast forward to the present: Uniqlo’s Ginza Flagship just had a makeover, the company recently posted a 31% sales jump and branches are popping up all over, including flagship stores in New York and Paris. The founder and new “Maestro of Cool,” Tadashi Yanai, is the richest man in Japan.

What have they done so right?

Well you could start with the price-to-quality factor. Japan’s economic doldrums have been hard on many, and luxury goods like Versace are suffering here. Anyone who can make clothing that’s relatively cheap and lasts longer than a season will get the attention of the frugally-minded. The present jeans price war may be the best example of this phenomenon.

They’ve also marketed themselves extremely well, concentrating on clever (and viral) internet ideas such as the Uniqlock and their interactive online runway instead of sinking their advertising budget solely into conventional television and magazine coverage. The web cred they’ve earned this way has  spread their message further than any broadcast spectrum or print circulation ever could.

Another component in their present success is bringing in designer Jill Sander, whose understated style adds a new sense of sophistication and credibility to the Uniqlo brand. What’s next? Well, as Yanai told Monocle earlier this year, Uniqlo’s immediate plans are to conquer Asia, targeting China, Korea and Singapore first.

Yanai also said that he openly admires Walmart, and in this statement is the essence of what makes him and his brand different: The Walmarts of the world never seriously think of going upscale. No, the only way was for high-street names to trickle into the mainstream. Think Ralph Lauren or Calvin Klein – still respected brands, but they started on Rodeo Drive and eventually ended up selling 2-for-1 at big-box stores like Costco as well. Elite brands sometimes filter out to the masses, but rarely the other way around. Looks like Uniqlo is about to change that.

Tags: ,

One Response

  1. After staing on a long queue, I finally was able to take a glimpse of the newly-opened Uniqlo in Paris (funny, twice, I visited Tokyo but I did not get to go into a Uniqlo shop).

    First impressions ? it was quite difficult to appreciate the quality of the clothes as everybody was pushing around. But was highy disappointed by the tags that said “Made in China”

RSS

Recent Posts

  • Ginza Cozy Corner takes dessert into hyperdrive with ‘Star Wars’ cakes

    One Japanese confectionary vendor is about to find the Force deep within a sweet tie-up. Ahead of the December release of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” Ginza Cozy Corner, which has outlets nationwide, has made a line of “Star Wars” sweets that are truly out of this world. The treats themselves are all based on people […]

  • Warning: This viral video of high school girls might make you blush

    Cosmetic company Shiseido has recently uploaded a YouTube video that is blowing viewers’ minds with a bona fide twist. In the promo video, titled “High School Girl? — The Makeup Secrets of High School Girls,” the camera weaves through a classroom full of drop-dead cute young women who pout and wink like true pop idols. […]

  • Sharp dials up the fan service to celebrate 20 years of ‘Evangelion’

    For those who have always dreamed of owning an Evangelion robot, this might be the closest you get. To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the popular “Neon Genesis Evangelion” animated series, Sharp is releasing a special smartphone that pays homage to the show both in the device’s hardware and software. The phone itself is detailed […]

  • Tokyo plugs into Google Play Music

    If you haven’t heard the latest news from Google Play, you may have missed your opportunity to tune into a Google Play Billboard. From Oct. 8-24, music lovers can head over to Shibuya to, literally, plug into a selection of over 3,500 songs. The Google Play Billboard is meant to give visitors a much-needed chance […]

  • J-blip: Ipsa’s Face Melody

    Every face has a name, a story and . . . a song? That’s the idea behind cosmetic company Ipsa’s newest creation. We should, uh, take it at face value, but the company claims that its Face Melody program can measure the user’s appearance and write a unique tune based on their attributes. The application […]

  • Japan celebrates the GIFs that keep on giving

    GIFs — which stands for graphics interchange format, don’t you know — have made the Internet an even more enjoyable place than before, and we have the receipts to prove it. These digital designs were technological wonders back in the days of AOL and Netscape (Google it, kids). But they eventually went from high-tech animation […]

  • Smart absolutions: Send off your sins with just one click

    The two-step method to purification.

  • Attack of the plant hunters, green carnivores and fleshy girls

    Never promised you a rose garden, but how about a fleshy plant or a stag-horn fern?

  • Make 12th-century art using 21st-century tech

    The Choju-Giga, the famed animal caricature ink paintings displayed Kyoto’s Kozan-ji Temple have been captivating people for centuries. The four scrolls, which date to the 12th and 13th centuries and depict rabbits and monkeys getting into mischief, are often cited as the first manga comics in Japan’s history. Now art lovers can create their own […]

  • Fuji Rock bound? Make sure you survive in style

    A few items that will help you stay dry and happy during Fuji Rock Festival’s unpredictable weather.