Will a cheaper, faster Uniqlo catch on in the U.S.?
Fast Retailing, mother company of Uniqlo, is bringing the fast fashion retailer’s faster, cheaper sibling brand to the U.S. with a new store in Manhattan’s Soho neighborhood.
The brand, called GU, is trend-focused and has grown popular in Japan with young, budget-conscious shoppers but has yet to make a significant mark elsewhere, according to High Snobiety. The only test of the brand outside of Japan thus far consisted of a few stores in South Korea, which closed at the beginning of the pandemic. The Soho location and accompanying GU webstore represent the brand’s first appearance in the West.
Uniqlo has been reporting standout success even as apparel competitors like Gap and Kohl’s continue to struggle.
Fast Retailing said in September that it was on its way to making its first annual profit in North America thanks to a pandemic-era revamp of its logistics, pricing and discounting strategy, according to Reuters. Uniqlo is pursuing a stateside footprint expansion as well, beyond major urban hubs and into smaller cities, with plans to open 30 stores every year until it reaches 200 total.
Uniqlo currently has 44 stores in the U.S., including its flagship in Soho, which opened in 2006.
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The flagship was one of the chain’s handful of stores prior to its first major U.S. expansion, which was announced in 2011, according to reporting by Reuters at that time.
While GU is a big seller in Japan, fast fashion as a whole has grown controversial globally and Fast Retailing has not escaped criticism.
Uniqlo has come under scrutiny for its ongoing use of cotton produced in the Xinjiang province of China, according to Reuters. Xinjiang has become a perennial source of global concern due to reports of the use of forced labor in production carried out in the region. Other fast fashion retailers, like H&M, have backed away from using Xinjiang cotton. The French government has opened an investigation into four retailers, including Fast Retailing, for concealing “crimes against humanity” in the region. The chain denies the allegations and says it does not tolerate such violations from its vendors and suppliers.
- UNIQLO’s Faster-Fashion Brand, GU, Finally Debuts Overseas – High Snobiety
- FOCUS-Amid US retail gloom, Uniqlo shines on COVID-triggered revamp – Reuters (via Nasdaq)
- Uniqlo starts U.S. expansion, eyes 200 stores – Reuters
- North America – Fast Retailing
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you think the opening of a single GU store in Soho (along with an online presence) is the right way for Fast Retailing to introduce the brand to the U.S. market? Will negative sentiment surrounding fast fashion impact how the GU brand is received in the U.S.?