Uniqlo to breach 1-M mark in December retail sales

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(By Raymund Luther B. Aquino, December 04, 2014 | MANILA, PHILIPPINES | BusinessWorld Online)

JAPANESE retailer UNIQLO is set to double its sales in this year’s holiday rush amid a rapidly expanding local branch network, though prospects for the global brand to tap Philippine factories remain dim.

“Approximately, [we are eyeing the sale of] more than one million pieces for the entire month of December,” Fast Retailing Philippines, Inc. Managing Director Katsumi Kubota told BusinessWorld on the sidelines of a De La Salle University student convention last Friday.

“[December] last year, [it] was almost half of that, because the number of stores was different,” Mr. Kubota noted. “For November this year, we’re finishing at almost half of [the December target], at around 500,000 [pieces sold].”

Fast Retailing Philippines, Inc., a joint venture of Japan’s Fast Retailing Co., Ltd. and SM Investments Corp. (SMIC) unit SM Retail, Inc., manages UNIQLO’s Philippine operations.

UNIQLO opened its 19th Philippine store at SM Makati last Friday, and the brand is set to open five more branches through February 2015 at SM City San Lazaro, SM City Lipa, Robinsons Magnolia, SM City Marikina, and Estancia Mall in Ortigas. UNIQLO ended 2013 with 11 branches.

Mr. Kubota said in the interview that UNIQLO is on track to meeting its target of 50 branches by the end of 2015, just over three years after the retailer opened its first store in the country in 2012 at the SM Mall of Asia.

“In the beginning, it was slow, but after having [around] 20 stores, we have solid fundamentals to expand to more stores,” he said. “I think that we can achieve that target.”

UNIQLO’s rapidly expanding operations in the country, however, will unlikely translate to the Japanese brand having Philippine factories to support its global operations, Mr. Kubota said.

“It’s a difficult challenge, because the apparel industry itself in this country is not globally strong yet,” Mr. Kubota said in response to a question on such prospects.

Mr. Kubota shared that UNIQLO’s contracted factories are “mainly in China, but also many in Vietnam, Cambodia, Bangladesh, Thailand, Indonesia.”