Uniqlo: Global Expansion

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Everyday items such as T-shirts, socks and jeans, in the jargon of the garment industry—are not normally considered the most exciting part of the business. But they are found in almost every wardrobe. Uniqlo, a successful Japanese firm with big ambitions, has transformed them into a goldmine. Having conquered Japan, it is now taking on the world.

Uniqlo’s parent company, Fast Retailing, is Japan’s biggest clothing company, with sales of $9 billion forecast this year. Whereas many Japanese businesses are ailing because of the stagnant domestic economy, Fast Retailing is flourishing. Last year sales grew by 17%, despite the recession, or because of it: its clothes combine a touch of style with enticingly low prices.

The company is hailed as an example of a new, globally competitive Japan. Its founder and boss, Tadashi Yanai, emerged from humble origins to become Japan’s richest man, worth over $9 billion. Uniqlo ranks among Japan’s ten most valuable brands, according to Interbrand, a consultancy. Its low prices are even blamed for fuelling Japan’s deflation.

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