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 St. 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?