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

  • 100 years of Japanese beauty in one minute

    Cut is setting its lens on Japan as it shows the dramatic changes Japanese women have gone through in the past century.

  • Studio Ghibli on a roll with licenses for new toys

    Nibariki has new wind-up toys inspired by Studio Ghibli’s “My Neighbor Totoro” and “Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind.”

  • ‘Japan Sumo Cup’ is possibly the most Japanese thing ever

    In this rhythm game, players choose a real sumo player, ride an actual race horse and compete against characters from “Street Fighter.”

  • YouTubers in Japan with 100,000 fans and counting

    YouTube threw a big celebration for more than 20 YouTubers living in Japan who have over 100,000 subscribers.

  • Finding laughs in translations that have lost the plot

    The Orikaeshi Honyaku Dictionary site, which boasts the catchphrase “from Japanese to Japanese,” roughly translates as “Chinese whispers.”

  • Japan tricks out the Halloween treats

    Halloween is a time to carve pumpkins, enjoy a few scares and, most importantly, shovel as much candy as humanly possible into one’s own mouth. While the practice of door-to-door trick-or-treating may not be a thing in Japan, the custom of eating special Halloween snacks certainly translates. Plenty of companies, both overseas and domestic, are […]

  • 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 […]