After it’s launch in Melbourne, Uniqlo has also popped up in Sydney. They’ve secured a temporary space on Pitt Street Mall (The Glasshouse Shopping Centre) until December. This is similar to what they did in Melbourne before they official launched in April.
Uniqlo has more a niche following here and that’s obvious when you visit the pop-up. It doesn’t seem to have the buzz that Zarahad and continues to have just a couple of stores up the road. That said Uniqlo could be a labeled as a ‘late starter’ to markets outside of Japan. Fast Retailing Co. bought the brand in 2005, and so it didn’t start it’s expansion outside of Japan until the mid 2000s – 15 years after Zara. At the moment, they have the store footprint of less than half the size of H&M (1,295 vs. more from 2,200 stores). It has also concentrated it’s store expansion near it’s home market Japan – with over 80% of it’s sales come from Asia.
So the best way to think of Uniqlo is as the little sister of the fast fashion set, but it’s growing up fast.
Uniqlo is backed by an incredibly ambitious parent company, Fast Retailing Co. By 2020 they want to be the world’s biggest vertically integrated specialty retailer with ‘a continuous growth rate of 20% pa’. They’ve been on a bit of a conquest over the last decade – buying J. Brand, Princess Tam Tam, Theory, Comptoir des Cotonniers and unsuccessfully bidding for Barneys NYC.
Uniqlo obviously realise the challenge they have around brand awareness in the Australian market (a challenge not really faced byZara or H&M), and have started a local ambassador program with the likes of Adam Scott, Jessica Watson, actress Sophie Lowe, restauranteur Andrew McConnell, Artist Rone, and blogger Sarah Donaldson. They’re using these representatives in their ads, and online as a way to localise the concept – going as far as describe the brand as ‘life wear’ to give it some context.
It’s also worth noting that it seems that they’re on a bit of a data-drive (creating a CRM program of sorts). With their recently launched e-comm site in Australia they’re offering a $10 gift voucher to spend if you register for their newsletter (this is being handed out as collateral in store) and they recently ran a Mothers Day promotion to win a cashmere jumper by registering your details with them (plus why your mum’s unique).
Uniqlo definitely fills a niche in the Australian market – high quality, trans-seasonal, low priced clothes. It’ll just take a little time for the concept to enter the public conscious/ consideration. Something we have no doubt it’ll do. What we’re interested in seeing is whether it’s parent company, Fast Retailing Co., will take the other end of the basics market by bring it’s Theory orComptoir et Contoniers concepts to Australia.