As you may have heard (or undoubtedly noticed if you’ve ever passed by the main drags of Fifth Avenue or West 34th in the past year), Uniqlo is preparing to open two new stores in Manhattan. An 89,000 square foot global flagship on Fifth Avenue and 53rd street opens this Friday, followed by a slightly more modest 65,000 square foot flagship on 34th between Fifth and Sixth Aves. next Friday.
I chatted briefly with U.S. CEO Shin Odake, who had flown in from Japan for the launch. With the economy where it is, now may seem like an unlikely time to open the company’s biggest store ever. Odake disagrees. “We don’t focus on the fact that the economy is struggling; we are more focused on the fact that the U.S. is the biggest market in the world so since we came across this real estate, we felt this was great timing.” In addition to the 34th street store, Odake is currently looking to expand into other cities in the U.S. “Our vision is to be the number one retailer in the world and by 2020, we want to do 50 million U.S. dollars worldwide. Eventually, we want to open a store in every city.”
In terms of merchandise, having successfully made a name for themselves with cashmere sweaters and designer collabs, Uniqlo’s current focus is innovative fabrics, like Heattech, which they are promoting for the launch ($12.90 down from $19.90 for a long-sleeve tee). To develop the fabrics, they partner with select manufacturers, like Japan-based Toray Industries, who actually have a team of people working out of Uniqlo’s offices. “We don’t buy fabric just because that’s a trendy fabric for the season or the prices are attractive; we want to create a long-term partnership with fabric brands.” And of course, what’s on everyone’s minds: what, if anything, will replace Jil Sander’s +J collaboration? Odake’s answer: “We are considering to do something similar, but we don’t have anything that we can announce.” Vague, yet promising?
Speaking of which, the fall 2011 +J collection occupies about an entire floor of the Fifth Avenue store, so if you had your eye on something you couldn’t find at Soho, chances are you’ll find it here. You’ll also find plenty of square footage dedicated to the Uniqlo Innovation Project, the new super-functional sportswear line styled by Nicola Formichetti (read more about that collab here). Yes, we got a chance to tour the massive global flagship this morning and it kind of blew our minds. The store, the largest on all of Fifth Avenue, is about the size of a mall and I am positive that I would have gotten lost had there not been someone guiding me through it. Here some numbers, so that your minds can be blown too.
89,000: Total number of square feet
49,800: Sales floor size
650: Number of store employees
400: Approximate number of associates working in the store at one time
100: Number of dressing rooms
300: Number of LED or LCD screens
500: Number of Italian-manufactured mannequins, many of which twirl around
19: Numbers of celebrities and New York personalities in Uniqlo’s Made for All campaign
$9.90: Number of dollars for promotional Japanese denim (that does not look like it costs $10)
3: Number of floors
2: Number of glass elevators that can be seen from outside
1: Concierge desk (in case you get lost)