[From August Issue 2015]
For the first time in his career, pro tennis player NISHIKORI Kei made it to the quarterfinals of this year’s French Open. During the tournament he wore the logo of the casual fashion brand “Uniqlo” affixed to his tennis wear. This is because Uniqlo began sponsoring him in 2011.
The brand name “Uniqlo” is an abbreviation of “Unique Clothing Warehouse.” The parent company is Fast Retailing (FR). Formerly it was “Men’s Shop Ogoori Shoji” – a company founded in 1949 in Ube City, Yamaguchi Prefecture. As of the end of February 2015, the FR group had a total of 2,872 shops around the world. FR’s core business Uniqlo accounted for 1,558 of these stores; more than half.
Uniqlo was an overnight sensation when it started selling fleece jackets in 1998. It established its reputation because of the range of colors on offer and the low price of 1,900 yen. In 2007, Heattech became a huge success. Heattech was developed in answer to a demand to “replace cotton thermal underwear with garments made from another material.”
Heattech’s unparalleled snug fitting lightweight fabric that “feels as if you’re not wearing anything,” was much discussed. As a result, in the fall-winter season of 2007 (to 2008), production failed to keep up with demand and Heattech products sold out in one shop after the other. Now Airism – suitable wear for summer that absorbs sweat and is quick to dry – is in the spotlight.
Uniqlo is known as an SPA (specialty store retailer of private label apparel) and offers good quality reasonably priced products to the world. SPA is a business model in which everything is done in-house; from product planning, to production, to distribution, to sales. It’s thanks to the SPA system that Uniqlo was able to create so many unique products.
One of Uniqlo’s aims is to unite the world through fashion. President YANAI Tadashi explains the company’s philosophy: “We allow people the world over to attain the joy, happiness, and satisfaction that comes from wearing quality clothing.” In fact, Uniqlo is strengthening its ties with other countries through the procurement of materials, manufacturing, and sales. It’s fair to say that Uniqlo is an unusual company not only because it manufactures clothing, but also because of its business model.
Text: ITO Koichi