Posts Tagged ‘Uniqlo’

Bicqlo – Bic Camera meets Uniqlo – is here!

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

Bicqlo

JR Shinjuku Station on opening day for Bicqlo. (Rebecca Milner photos)

Bicqlo—the much-hyped Bic Camera and Uniqlo mash-up store—opened in Shinjuku today. And for those who weren’t aware yet of its impending existence, the floors of the JR station in Shinjuku were papered with announcements. Plenty did seem to know, as there were plenty of people inside (and plenty of press leading up to the opening). It wasn’t H&M-opening crowded (no lines to get in after the initial early birds got inside), but there was still a healthy line for the dressing room and enough pushing and shoving to make one question Japan’s prevailing image as a polite and orderly place.

So what exactly is Bicqlo? Sadly, not much more than an ordinary Bic Camera with a Uniqlo sandwiched in the middle. Fans of both brands might be tickled to hear the familiar Bic Camera theme song give a nod to Uniqlo, or see Uniqlo staff wearing Bic Camera-style happi coats. The merchandise, however, save for a few in-store-only Uniqlo items, is essentially the same.

It is all also the same color. As Uniqlo mannequins wearing the brand’s new fall line-up and accessorized with Bic Camera goods (cameras and electric kettles, for example) demonstrate, everyone seems to be working from the same color forecasting charts. Good news for those who want to match their jeggings with their appliances.

However, we’re wondering what Uniqlo is doing matching its clothes with suggestions of housework. The brand has worked so hard over the last few years to give itself a more fashionable image, first with the now-closed UT store in Harajuku and then through its designer capsule collections (with designers like Jun Takahashi no less) and, most recently, by sharing real estate with the decidedly upmarket Dover Street Market in Ginza. Paired with a vacuum, even if it is a sexy Dyson, that down vest just doesn’t look anything but functional — but perhaps that’s back where we’re at, economy-wise.

Indeed the bargain-basement prices that both stores are offering throughout the opening weekend (Sept. 27-30) seem to be the real attraction here. Those who spend ¥7,000 or more can also try their luck at winning limited edition collaboration goods from a gashapon-style capsule game. And, for the time being, you can exchange ¥1,500 worth of Bic Camera points for a ¥1,000 “Bicqlo Coupon,” which can be used at the Uniqlo here. (Unfortunately, it’s a one-way trade: Uniqlo purchases do not earn you points at Bic Camera.)

We’ve been seeing heaps of name-brand collaborations in Japan recently, like the Mos Burger meets Mister Donut shop Mosdo (which also plays on the Japanese fondness for squashing two words together to make a catchy new one). We also like the crossover advertising campaign that pairs Softbank’s popular and endearing “Shirato family” with the iconic Suntory Boss character, played by Tommy Lee Jones; like the individual campaigns, this mash-up is just plain clever.

Bicqlo wins on convenience: It really is useful to be able to pick up socks and printer cartridges in the same place. But as far as innovation, or even novelty, is concerned, isn’t the concept — cheap clothes and electronics in one store — essentially that of any big-box store, the likes of which are littered all over the (gasp!) suburbs?

Today’s J-blip: Suteteko

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

In the hot and sticky Japanese summer months, staying cool can be a challenge. However, a resurgence in traditional suteteko (say stet-eh-ko) is making it a little bit easier. Fear not — these aren’t your grandpa’s long johns! Contemporary sutekeko are pants made of light-weight, breathable material and fall just below (or above) the knee. Once a boutique item (that we spotted a year ago), they are now available from major retailers like Uniqlo as well as dedicated shops. Great for lounging around the house, walking your dog or even on a first date if you dare . . . If it doesn’t go well, at least you’ll have the peace of mind knowing it wasn’t because of your sweaty legs.

We’ve pinned a sampling of some of the huge variety of patterns and colors. Follow this and Japan Pulse’s other boards on Pinterest.

Japanese Twitter marketing campaigns make some noise

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

Twitter’s little blue bird has landed in Japan and looks like it might stick around to build a nest: The microblogging site had almost 10 million views in April from Japan. Ninety-five percent of people polled in a recent survey said they knew about Twitter. Granted, goo Research and japan.internet.com surveyed 1,077 people who were already online, so we’d expect higher recognition than if they polled people on the street. But still, a huge increase from 12% in a similar survey taken at the same time last year. The tweet designated as the 15 billionth this past weekend was in Japanese. For the final nudge, Twitter will come pre-installed on 13 of SoftBank’s new phones this summer, and a free Twitter app for NTT DoCoMo’s keitai has just been announced.

From a marketer’s point of view, that’s a lot of potential consumers. How to grab their attention and keep it? The first wave of Japanese corporate Twitter accounts to play with the medium mostly chatted a bit aimlessly and offered Twitter-only discounts. Many of the accounts replied automatically to messages about the company’s product or shop that were posted in the common format “I’m at FamilyMart/eating udon/drinking coffee now.”

Continue reading about creative Twitter campaigns in Japan →

Clothing retailers want you to stay cool, stay fresh

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

Summertime, and the business suits are cool

Summertime, and the business suits are cool

UNIQLO Dry

UNIQLO Dry

Summer in Japan is hot and humid. Newspapers wilt. Mold flourishes. Even non-electrically heated toilet seats feel pre-warmed. Subways set the air conditioning to arctic or just blast the fans to stir the muggy air around.

The Japanese government’s Cool Biz initiative launched in the summer of 2005 by then-Prime Minister Koizumi encourages workers to cope by taking off their ties and ditching their jackets. To cope, that is, with a carbon-emission reducing and sweat-increasing thermostat setting of 28 degrees Celsius. (Farenheit friends, let me save you a second. That’s an indoor temperature of 82 degrees.)

The jury may be out on how significant the emissions cut is and whether the initiative has helped or hurt the economy. But in the prospect of the workforce stewing in steamy offices all day, retailers have seen a great opportunity to push clothing lines with coolness built in. Ito Yokado also saw a ready-made tagline; its budget-conscious Power Cool and Mira-kool clothes are all categorized as “Cool Biz goods.” The company is just one of many retailers taking advantage of new fabric technology – anti-bacterial! anti-odor! – from manufacturers such as Toray and Asahi Kasei. They even say that washing won’t dilute the funk-busting properties.

photo-1

From Comme Ca Ism, one example of woven-in deodorant

Just in time for summer, Wacoal has put out a line of bras and other underthings made of a breathable fabric meant to reduce sweat. The bras are called “suusuu,” a word that hints at the idea of an absorbent fabric and invokes the feeling of a breeze. They have strategically placed strips of open mesh for ventilation. The Web site has a rollover “sweat body map” accompanied by infographics reflecting how people surveyed feel about sweat: the number one concern is shirt stains, followed by smell.

Uniqlo is following up the success of its slick winter Heattech layers with TECH Silky Dry innerwear for men and women. The women’s line of ultra-thin “air-conditioned” unmentionables is called Sarafine. Some of the camisoles come with removable underarm pads. For men, there are tops and bottoms made of slippery, stretchy Silky Dry. Both the men’s and women’s lines claim anti-odor, anti-bacterial properties.

In addition, Uniqlo has rolled out a UV-blocking line of knits. The UV Cut line is a collaboration with Anessa, a sunscreen from cosmetics maker Shiseido.

Can these fabrics really stand up to the heat and humidity that makes showering feel all but futile? It hasn’t been quite hot enough yet this year to fully test these. On those days when walking to the train in the morning feels like a full-on workout, any promise of coolness will probably find some sweaty takers.

Have you found any high-tech fabrics that actually help you keep cool? Any traditional tactics that work better?

Japan Inc. testing the Twitter waters

Monday, March 8th, 2010

A cafe in Roppingi Hills urges passersby to follow its Twitter account: @hillscafespace

A cafe in Roppingi Hills urges passersby to follow its Twitter account: @hillscafespace

A year ago, Japan made up only 0.7 percent of Twitter’s global population. Over the course of 2009, however, estimates show the number of users in Japan grew by six to 10 times, with the current number standing somewhere around 4.5 million people. Japanese is now the second most-used language on the network after English – some 14% of of the 50 million tweets per day worldwide are in Japanese.

Naturally, much of that is the usual chitchat and link-sharing, but Japanese corporations and organizations are playing with the potential for word-of-mouth exposure, PR and retail growth. For smaller companies, Twitter allows them to bypass traditional channels and hawk their wares directly to consumers. The majors are using the micoblogging format to widen their reach and project a friendlier, more casual image.

Although Asian Fortune 100 companies lag behind the U.S. and Europe in sheer numbers of corporate Twitter accounts, those that are tweeting average more followers per account. And hundreds of Japanese companies are jumping on the bandwagon.

Many are taking tsubuyaku, the Japanese verb of choice for tweeting, rather literally. The word means mutter or murmer, and that is just what many seem to be doing, often to tens of thousands of followers.  While some big-name retailers, such as Muji, are announcing Twitter-only sales, others seem to be aiming simply to foster camaraderie and boost engagement through the so-called “casual tweet.” Udon chain Katokichi sends out personalized replies to messages about the noodle dish. Hamburger chain Mos Burger has about 30,000 followers on Twitter, but with a large portion of its posts commenting on the weather and the time of day, it’s not exactly pushing the hard sell. Tsutaya predictably sends followers  movie recommendations, but mixes those with chatter and quickie film quizzes, like “What was the name of the Jedi weapon in the Star Wars movies?”  Some restaurants, like are giving discounts to customers who tweet about their meal there on a sliding scale based on the number of followers the tweeter has.

Continue reading about Twitter and business in Japan →

Trends in Japan 2009: fast fashion

Monday, December 28th, 2009

Fast fashion outlets like UniQlo are doing well in the recession

Little could stop the Uniqlo momentum in 2009

It was the year that rocked luxury brand names as Versace made the unbelievable announcement that Versace SpA stores would close nationwide and more affordable brands such as H&M, Zara, Forever21 and Uniqlo began appear in areas once reserved for swanky brand-name fashion. While the world sinking deeper into recession, “fast fashion” retailers proved that there was still a way to make a quick buck. Last month Zara opened their 50th store in Japan (a bigger space in Shibuya) and H&M opened a new branch in Shinjuku. Forever 21, which doesn’t yet have the brand cachet of H&M or Zara, threw down the gauntlet in April with its Japan debut in Harajuku  and, the last time I checked, it was still full of bargain hunters.

In 2009, cash-strapped consumers also benefited from how-low-can-you-go price wars. Uniqlo’s cheaper spinoff store g.u. started selling jeans for ¥990 earlier in the year, which was followed by Don Quijote’s Jonetsu Kagaku (passionate price) of ¥690 per pair. However, when you consider the wages of the workers making them at factories in Cambodia and China, you might question the true cost of such cheap clothing.

On a more environment-friendly note, some young Japanese girls embraced the recessionista trend of recyling old clothes into a new look. Used clothing outlet Don Don Down  opened two new stores last month, proving that at least some Japanese are willing to wear outfits that are a little rough around the edges. Many of those scouring the nation’s flea markets were fashioning old clothes into new outfits, a process dubbed remaku (remake) and those not handy with a sewing machine could buy the eco-friendly recycled look from stores in trendy areas like Shimokitazawa or Koenji.

As long as the recession continues, the lower priced end of fast fashion is bound to continue reaping a profit (and we’re bound to see more creative and crafty ways to remix and recycle the resulting mountain of thrown-away threads). Despite the trend toward fast fashion U.S. luxury casual brand Abercrombie & Fitch felt optimistic enough to try to break into the Japanese market by opening a new store in Ginza last week. The success or failure of this significantly more expensive store will prove a useful barometer for other luxury brands hoping to expand their markets in these lean times.

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

Friday, October 9th, 2009

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?

Continue reading about Tadashi Yanai and Uniqlo →

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