(Source: Business Mirror| April 3, 2018)
The fashion trend has greatly evolved over the years. It is clear that today, the casual wear or prêt-à-porter (ready-to-wear) market has taken over the high-fashion couture labels.
Obviously, people want clothes that are comfortable, practical, and can be mixed-and-matched.
Consumers even have the power to shop online because these brick and mortar retailers are into e-commerce. But despite all the hype about online shopping, shoppers still prefer to physically go to the stores so that they can touch, feel and try on the merchandise. There’s nothing like putting on the actual clothes to see if they fit on you.
Well, Uniqlo, a global Japanese apparel brand, has developed a roadside-type store concept. They call it the Uniqlo Roadside Store, a standalone shop with ample parking space, which is operated by Fast Retailing Co. The first Yamanota Roadside Store was located in Yamaguchi Prefecture, which boomed into a great success and set a new standard for the Uniqlo brand in 1985.
Uniqlo, which name originated from the words “unique clothing”, which according to Satoshi Hatase, CEO of Uniqlo Southeast Asia and Australia, Fast Retailing Co., Ltd, were mistakenly misspelled when the letter ‘c’ was replaced with ‘q’.
It all started in 1949. The Japanese store was originally a men’s shop called Ogori Shoji Co., Ltd. and later became Uniqlo, which started as a suburban chain in Hiroshima in 1984. Today, there are more than 800 stores in Japan and almost half of them are Roadside. There are more than 1,900 Uniqlo stores worldwide in which more than 500 are in China and the rest are in Europe, United States, Canada, Australia, Asia and Southeast Asia.
“Our clothes are simple and clever. Uniqlo clothes are known for being of high-quality, innovative, functional and affordable,” said Hatase.
Recently, the first Uniqlo Roadside Store in Southeast Asia opened at 58 East Bangkok, Phatthanakan, Thailand, which is the fourth country to have a roadside store after Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.
The Phatthanakan store, which occupies over 1,440 sq.m. and has 60 parking slots, carries a wide product line for men, women, children and infants. Uniqlo Roadside opened its doors at Thailand’s auspicious time of 6:00 a.m. Over 400 avid shoppers lined up outside the roadside as early as 3:30 a.m. The early birds were rewarded with a Japanese-Thai fusion breakfast, discount voucher and tumbler. The first two customers who bought merchandise were given gift certificates worth 3,000 Thai Baht each (US$100). After the doors opened, more than 600 people were inside the establishment.
The store was designed as a family-oriented as well as elderly and disability-friendly, one-stop shop. It also features a special waiting area, which is a Walt Disney play area for children—a first-of-its-kind for Uniqlo in Thailand.
Operating roadside stores is a core domestic strategy for Uniqlo—one-stop shopping for customers to enjoy close to home, while making a positive contribution to the local community.
“In addition to a personal and convenient shopping experience, all of our roadside stores aim to stimulate long lasting and stable economic prosperity for local communities by raising property values and attract new and sustainable businesses around each new store location,” Hatase shared.
The venue of the roadside store in Bangkok is not exactly known as a shopping destination but it was chosen due to its strategic location and because it connects to the eastern part of the city and the high population of Phattanakan, which boasts of 700,000 households in its nearby residential area. Aside from their strong purchasing power, the fact that the majority of Thai people are car owners was another aspect that made Thailand the company’s first choice to carry out the format in Southeast Asia.
“In line with the philosophy of our roadside stores, our hope is for Thailand Uniqlo to boost the vitality of the local area by becoming a lifestyle and cultural hub,” expressed Hatase.
Uniqlo expanded into Southeast Asia in 2009 when it opened its first store in Singapore. It now has 165 stores in the region, including Malaysia that has 43 and the Philippines that has 47 stores since it opened in 2012.
The Southeast Asian Region’s sales hit ¥110 billion (RM4.07 billion) in 2017. With continued expansion and the introduction of the roadside model, the company expects sales to grow by 30 percent each year for the next five years.
In an interview, Hatase said that they are fully committed to Southeast Asia, which is now a key growth engine for Uniqlo globally.
“Roadside stores are growing fast worldwide and it will be a craze for travelers and residents who live nearby and don’t want to go through traffic in the city,” he added.
Next in line will be Malaysia and the Philippines but no specific location and dates were given as of yet.
“With increasing vehicle ownership and congestion in Metro Manila, roadside stores will provide a stress-free shopping experience,” said Takenari Motoda, group senior vice president for Store Development, Fast Retailing Co., Ltd. when asked why they intend to put up a roadside store in the Philippines.
“Filipinos love to travel with their families and do last minute shopping. A Uniqlo Roadside Store will bring a brand new experience to customers. It will offer more personal, more convenient shopping. The central promise of the roadside store model is simple—local, one-stop shopping for customers to enjoy in a quick-and-convenient trip close to home,” Motoda added.
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