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Why Uniqlo Is Now Selling Through Mobile Shopping App Spring

It's the first time the global retail giant has ever sold through a third party.
Uniqlo on Spring (I know I need to charge my phone). Screengrab: Dhani Mau

Uniqlo on Spring (I know I need to charge my phone). Screengrab: Dhani Mau

It's been about a year and a half since the mobile-first, multi-brand fashion marketplace Spring went live with an impressive roster of brands (Opening Ceremony, Warby Parker, Marc Jacobs) and investors (Google Ventures, Andrew Rosen, Ivanka Trump) on board. Its premise: that consumers are increasingly using their phones to shop (fact) and would prefer to shop all their favorite brands in one app, with an easy checkout system, rather than visiting each one's individual mobile site — or, more commonly, browsing on mobile and purchasing on desktop.

Since then, it's proven to be a valuable asset for younger brands, who can join for free and only pay Spring a small percentage of each sale. For some, like Thakoon and Misha Nonoo, Spring was their first foray into e-commerce, and many of those brands agree that Spring is great for customer acquisition.

But, Spring's goal has always been to have the right mix of brands high and low, big and small, so that shoppers might come for the marquee names they already know and love, and discover something up their alley that they didn't know existed. And while it's taken some time, bigger retailers are now starting to get on board: As of Thursday, Uniqlo became its latest acquisition.

It's the first time Uniqlo is selling through a third party, and quite a get for Spring, for whom Uniqlo is one of the biggest and most global brands it's signed alongside Urban Outfitters and American Apparel. Spring's Chief Brand Officer April Uchitel, who leads the app's efforts to get new companies on board, said Thursday that Uniqlo is one of several bigger brands that Spring has been in talks with since it first launched. "It came down to the right timing, when the brand feels it's the best opportunity," she explained, adding that Uniqlo's "aspirational yet accessible" positioning and connections to the fashion world through collaborations and its partnership with the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund made it the "perfect Spring brand." To get the word out about the launch, Spring and Uniqlo are handing out vests (because Austin gets chilly at night!) and other fun things out of a special truck at SXSW.

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While we weren't able to speak with anyone from Uniqlo, Uchitel noted that Spring might be appealing to a direct-to-consumer business like Uniqlo because the brand still has control over its own shopping experience and merchandising, and Spring can hosts its entire product catalog, whereas a traditional retailer would curate its own selection. While the biggest and most international, Uniqlo is not the first direct-to-consumer brand to partner with Spring: Reformation, Warby Parker and Everlane are on the platform as well.

A global brand with locations all over the world, Uniqlo has struggled with awareness in the U.S. and other countries outside of Asia, and last year announced plans to curb brick-and-mortar store openings and focus more on building out its e-commerce footprint. Indeed, partnering with Spring is a simple and inexpensive way to do that and, potentially, tap into new customers.

For Spring, Uchitel said bringing more "household names" is currently a big priority and that some pretty big brands are "in the pipeline." Stay tuned.

Homepage photo: YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP/Getty Images

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