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Retailing and Flagship Store

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On a beautiful morning in April, 2011, Tadashi Yanai, the founder and CEO of Fast Retailing Co., the holding company of UNIQLO, is walking to his office. The “sakura blossoms” are in bloom, but Mr. Yanai doesn’t pay attention to the lovely flowers. He is too concerned about the meeting that is to start in 5 hours, with all of UNIQLO’s board members, regarding UNIQLO’s next strategic move. Mr. Yanai remembers his promise in 2009 to the board that UNIQLO would reach a goal of 5 trillion yen ( $60 billion ) in sales by 2020 (Fujimura & Firn). He knows that in order to achieve this goal, the company needs to expand, primarily in growing economies where UNIQLO can sell in high volume. Getting closer to his office, Mr. Yanai contemplates that UNIQLO is already well established in the Japanese market, with little room for expansion.

Currently, outside Japan, UNIQLO operates 149 stores in China, Britain, France, Singapore, Russia, Taiwan, Malaysia, and South Korea, plus a lone U.S. outlet (Ozasa). Mr. Yanai has just been informed that UNIQLO will grow by opening more foreign stores, especially across China and fast-growing Southeast Asia (Sanchanta). India’s population is projected to overtake China in 2050, and its economy is growing faster than China’s (BBC). This meeting will determine whether UNIQLO should enter the Indian market, and if so – what is the best strategy be to assure economic success? UNIQLO has three different options – to establish small retail stores in India (like its stores in Japan and China), establish flagship stores (like its stores in London and NYC), or propose an “outlet” format (like its store in Malaysia). Mr. Yanai knows that the board members are counting on his decision. Still, he debates within himself as to the best strategy. What should he decide? A very intriguing intro

UNIQLO Background
The first incarnation of UNIQLO was a regular, local clothier called “Men’s Shop Ogori Shoji” in Ube City (Yamaguchi Prefecture). This shop expanded and by 1963, was a very successful chain of stores owned by “Ogori Shoji Co., Ltd.,” with 6 million yen in capital. The store that the company opened in Hiroshima in 1984 bore the name “Unique Clothing Warehouse,” and this is where the moniker “UNIQLO” came from. In 1985, the first UNIQLO “roadside store” was opened, and this “format” is soon adopted as the standard by the industry (Fast Retailing) .

In 1997, UNIQLO borrowed a strategy from its competitor “The Gap” called “Specialty-Store/Retailer of Private-Label Apparel” – or “SPA” for short. This strategy entailed UNIQLO to manufacture and sell its own, proprietary clothing. Outsourcing of this manufacturing took place in China, where labor came at a very low price – UNIQLO passed on these savings to their customers, which was very advantageous because Japan was, at that time, in a very bad recession and thus cheap, well-made clothing was in high demand (Nagagata). Even today, 90% of UNIQLO clothing is made in China (The Economist ). 1998 saw UNIQLO’s first “urban” store open in trendy Harajuku, and UNIQLO stock was first listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange in 1999 (Fast Retailing). The company continued its meteoric rise in the Japanese fashion world and increased their store number to 500 by 2001, their success emboldening the company to expand overseas and form the “Fast Retailing (Jiangsu) Apparel Co., Ltd.” in China the same year (Uniqlo – the Unique Clothing of Japan).

Overseas expansion continued in fast succession, with the opening of four stores in London in 2002, however, these outlets performed poorly (Frantz). To remedy this situation, UNIQLO adopted some very innovative measures such as starting joint ventures with fashion magazines, hiring celebrities for their marketing, hiring new designers, and acquiring smaller companies – these measures proved successful and UNIQLO’s London stores started showing profit ( UNIQLO Information). UNIQLO’s next overseas venture was in opening its first store in Shanghai, China in 2002, followed by more stores opening in New York, South Korea (a joint venture with “Lotte”) in the same year, and Hong Kong (“UNIQLO” 1) in 2005 (Fast Retailing). 2005 also saw the number of UNIQLO stores in Japan climb to 700 and the opening of a large store in the upscale Ginza district of Tokyo.

In 2006, UNIQLO opened its first “global flagship store” in New York City’s famous Soho district (Stephan) .This is significant because UNIQLO would go on to open other “flagship stores” in the next few years, including a second flagship store in London in 2007 (Fast Retailing) . Along with the opening of the “flagship store” in Soho, UNIQLO closed its existing New Jersey and New York locations – although the company has stated that a second “flagship store,” to be located on Fifth Avenue, is in the works. UNIQLO continued expanding, with a store in Kobe (UNIQLO’s largest store – 3,300 square meters) and a store in La Defense, Paris in 2007 (Fast Retailing). 2009 and 2010 were also very busy years for UNIQLO. The company opened three stores in Singapore and a flagship store in Paris called the “Opera Store” in 2009. In 2010, UNIQLO opened its first store in Taiwan, its first store in Russia (Moscow), its first flagship store in Japan (Osaka), and its first flagship store (joint venture) in Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur) (Kaiser).

UNIQLO’s Marketing Strategy
UNIQLO mostly offers customers “basic” clothing (only about 1,000 items), such as socks and t-shirts, and keeps them on their shelves for longer periods of time. As a result, UNIQLO is not very good at offering high fashion quickly, but makes up for this by offering what it does sell in a multitude of colors (50 colors for socks alone), and according to the company, this makes for a broader appeal. UNIQLO plans to expand by 500 stores annually for the next two to four years – most of these will be in Asia – specifically China (The Economist ).

UNIQLO’s Competitors:
UNIQLO’s main competitors are the brands “Zara” (owned by Inditex), “The Gap,” and “H&M.” The chart below shows UNIQLO’s global position in respect to these competitors, as of 2009 (source: economist.com)

There are a few interesting facts that bear mentioning in this section. As of 2010, UNIQLO had 2/3 the revenue of its competitors, but was growing the fastest at 22% annual growth (The Economist ). Some competitive advantages and deficiencies are apparent when comparing UNIQLO to its competitors.

H&M started as strictly a women’s fashion store in 1947 in Sweden. The company ventured into men’s fashion in 1968 and changed its name to “Hennes & Mauritz” (Reference for business). H&M swiftly expanded across Europe, starting in Norway in 1964, with Germany becoming the company’s largest market and reached 377 in 2011 (Funding Universe). H&M, after conquering Europe, expanded to the U.S. in 2000, with a store in New York City on Fifth Avenue – in 2010 there were 200 H&M stores in the U.S. H&M’s first store in Asia was opened in the United Arab Emirates in 2006 – soon stores opened in Kuwait (2006), Shanghai (2007), Hong Kong (2007), Ginza (2008), and Seoul (2010). Now, H&M is present in 40 countries and employs 87,000 employees with the philosophy: “to bring you fashion and quality at the best price”. H&M seems to back this statement up – its product price range is from $5 – $100. One significant difference that H&M is famous for is for employing guest “celebrity” designers. H&M has offered fashion lines from such people as Madonna, Roberto Cavalli, Jimmy Choo, and Kyle Minogue. H&M does not have stores in India or Malaysia (Armstrong).

Zara started as a local store in La Coruna, Spain, owned by Amancio Ortega and Rosalia Mera (Zara ). From this humble beginning, Zara has turned into “…the world’s largest clothing retailer” (All Business ) and it is owned by Inditex, which is one of the world’s largest distribution groups (Zara). Inditex is also owned by Ortega, who recently became the richest man in Spain (his shares are worth 6 billion U.S. dollars), and gradually modified Zara’s “…manufacturing and distribution process to reduce lead times…” (All Business ). Zara also, in place of individual designers, employed groups of designers and made full use of advancements in communication technology. Zara also owns and manages most of the steps on its supply chain, and 50% of its products are manufactured locally in Spain. As a result, it has been said that Zara is able to take a design prototype and have it in its stores as far as Tokyo or Paris in less than two weeks – this is compared to the average of six months that it takes competitors to do the same thing. Thus, Zara is able to produce 11,000 products a year – this is in comparison to the industry average, which is between 2,000 and 4,000 products a year (All Business). This is one of Zara’s core competencies – it allows the company to get current fashion trends into stores faster.

Zara started expanding in the 1980’s, with its first store in Portugal – it was only nine years later that the company went to the U.S. and then, a year later, Paris. This expansion grew in the 90’s, with stores in countries like Greece, Sweden, and Belgium – Zara currently has stores in 73+ countries, including four in India ( Zara ).

The Gap began as a clothing/accessories store in San Francisco, California, in 1969, by Donald Fisher and Doris Fisher ( Gap ). Originally, the store sold other brands such as Levi’s and it took only $63,000 to open the store, but it did very well – making 2 million in sales in only its first year (Gapinc) .The Gap stores offer men, women, and children clothing like “casual apparel” and “sports and active apparel” (Yahoo Finance). The main advertising theme for the Gap is that Gap is “…a stylish casual wear retailer [at] a fair price”. Most Gap commercials and advertisements feature well-known celebrities, and its website has been seen as “…a model of stylish efficiency”. The brand is now known as The Gap, Inc., and the company owns not only the Gap clothing stores, but also Old Navy, Piperlime (a shoe store), Banana Republic, and Athleta, and owns 3,100 stores and employs 134,000 people (Gapinc).

The Gap’s expansion happened quickly – buying Banana Republic in 1983, establishing Old Navy in 1994, Piperlime in 2006, and Athleta in 2009 (Sarah). International expansion also happened extensively, with stores all over the world – company-owned stores are in the U.S., U.K., Japan, Ireland, Italy, Canada, China, and France – all other stores (like those in India and Malaysia) are franchises. The Gap, for a long time, was the world’s biggest clothing retailer – but just recently was overtaken by Inditex, which owns Zara (Gapinc).

UNIQLO in Overseas Operations
From 2001 – 2005, UNIQLO failed to successfully enter into the overseas markets, especially in the UK in 2002, and in the U.S. in 2005. In those markets, UNIQLO started by opening stores with a similar size to their Japanese stores (600-800 m2) in suburban areas. As stated above, in 2002, UNIQLO started introducing its brand in “fashion capitals” by entering the U.K. market. This entrance was based on UNIQLO Japan’s experience and capabilities in terms of product development, marketing, merchandising and sales, and it was a very aggressive strategy. Plans to open 50 stores in the U.K. flopped. UNIQLO opened 4 stores there in 2002, but these performed poorly. Most of these stores were small retail stores in suburban locations (Frantz). UNIQLO entered the US market in 2005 by opening three stores in New Jersey malls. UNIQLO met the same problems there as in the U.K. They faced big challenges as there were many other retailers in the U.S. Sales were disappointing. Therefore, UNIQLO decided it wanted a bigger presence and knew that it must open a store in the fashion capital of the U.S. – New York City (Frantz). By 2006, all three of the New Jersey locations were closed. Based on past failures, UNIQLO needed to do research on these new international markets, in order to move forward.

Flagship Stores as an International Market Entry Method
“The international flagship store” is different from the other retail formats in that luxury fashion retailers operate within foreign markets. These stores distinguish themselves from the rest of the international network by their scale and design, their location, set-up and operation costs. Typically, flagships are between five to eight times larger than the typical retail store footprint (6500 – 8700 sq foot). This larger scale enhances the status of the brand. Located within the premium shopping districts of a cluster of key cities (like New York, London, Paris, Milan, Tokyo, Shanghai, Moscow and Kuala Lumpur), property costs associated with these locations were variously described as “financially demanding” and “cripplingly high”. These high costs were sustained and justified by the claim that the operation of a flagship store within these “fashion capitals” made a significant positive contribution to the identity and prestige of their respective luxury brands. “The idea of a flagship in every country really dilutes the flagship principle.

Too many flagships dilute their significance” (Stephan). In all cases, the opening of the flagship store marked the first direct investment within the various foreign markets, and this tended to mark their development of a retail store portfolio within their most important foreign markets. The main function of the flagship is to develop, stimulate and support the relationships that exist between and among each retailer and three important groups: distribution partners, the fashion media, and customers (Stephan). * Distribution partner relations: The flagship makes a significant contribution to brand profile building within a foreign market. Thus, these stores have a positive impact upon wholesalers, especially within the cities where the flagships are located.

The luxury fashion retailers also use their flagship stores as a venue to promote closer relationships between the brand and their distribution partners (Stephan). * Customer relations: New clients often “inspired and encouraged the stock the brand after having visited the flagship” (Stephan). For many customers, the visit to the flagship store is a vivid and pleasant memory that sustains their interest and engagement with the brand. Events such as launch parties, fashion shows, cultural exhibitions and charity evenings are used to maintain interest in the brand, reward loyalty and generate new business. * Fashion media relations: The flagship store contributes to the development of positive relationships with fashion editors and stylists. The purpose of flagship stores is “for something other than profit generation” (Stephan). They are the conduit to the successful development of relationships among luxury brands and their distribution partners, members of fashion media and customers. However, there is a restriction on the number of flagship stores a company can have because of their extremely high cost.

Flagship Stores to Express the Very Best of UNIQLO
In the end, UNIQLO decided to open its first global flagship store in the SOHO fashion district of Manhattan, New York City (NYC) in November, 2006. That was the only way for them to differentiate themselves from the other competitors as it was absolutely critical that UNIQLO raise awareness of their brand. The flagship store in NYC was designed by renowned architect Masamichi Katayama of Wonderwall in Tokyo, and the 36,000 square foot space epitomizes a carefully constructed juxtaposition between the brand’s Japanese heritage and a contemporary, culturally inclusive retail experience (Stephan).

On September 10, 2007, a press release from the NYC store revealed that: “ Capitalizing on its success and popularity in New York City since the Flagship store launch in November 2006, UNIQLO will pursue an aggressive expansion campaign throughout Manhattan over the next few years” (UNIQLO new release on website) (UNIQLO). The flagship store in NYC has been extremely successful. We see their sales grew approximately 40% in Fiscal 2010, and therefore UNIQLO will open the second flagship store on New York’s Fifth Avenue in the fall of 2010 (Fast Retailing). UNIQLO has also applied the same concept of “flagship stores” in many fashion capitals such as London, France, Tokyo, Moscow, Shanghai, and Kuala Lumpur and they carefully select locations within the premium shopping districts in those cities. “The idea of this store was to make an impression on the U.S. market with its flagship being larger than the other stores,” says Michael Leonetti, project executive with construction manager Richter + Ratner of New York (Macgraw Hill Construction).

Entering China
Mr. Yanai, on his way to the meeting, considers the similarities between the Chinese market and the Indian market. Both markets have a very high growth rate that can contribute to UNIQLO expanding quickly. Both are located in Asia, a region of high interest for UNIQLO. Also, their population size is somewhat similar, and China is only slightly higher in GDP Per Capita than India . Mr. Yanai feels that he can reflect on UNIQLO’s Chinese experience and use that knowledge in order to develop the India strategy. UNIQLO’s second overseas posting was with two stores in Shanghai in 2002 (Lowen). China is also the company’s manufacturing center, and its factories export about 450 million units of apparel per year, according to Pan Ning, managing director of Fast Retailing’s China operations (WWD). The company entered the market through a partnership with one of its Chinese suppliers (Frantz). The company established a subsidiary in Kumshan, Jiangsu province in China, as a joint venture with Jiangsu Chenfeng Group Co. of China.

The new subsidiary, Fast Retailing (Jiangsu) Apparel Co., produced and sold casual clothes under the UNIQLO brand in China (The Woolmark Company). The company did very little to invest in local advertising, relying on “word-of-mouth” to spread the message of the brand (Frantz).//interesting// While this initial foray into China was not a disaster, it also was not as successful as the senior management team had hoped. By 2005, UNIQLO already had 8 stores in the Shanghai area. Still, the company succeeded in making its first profit quickly in August 2005, with net sales of ¥1.1billion (UNIQLO). By 2010, UNIQLO had 64 locations in China: Hong Kong, Beijing, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Chengdu, Chongqing, Shenyang and Dalian. Following the success of its global flagship stores, the company, in 2010, opened its fourth flagship in the world in Shanghai; after NY, Paris and London.

With 39,000 square feet and 320 mannequins on three floors, the store in Shanghai was the largest store in Asia (WWD). The stores attracted a lot of attention and lines in front of the doors became a regular sight. The company is now planning its second flagship in Beijing (Shanghaiist). Mr. Yanai reflects on UNIQLO’s Chinese experience. The company entered the Chinese market with regular street stores and only opened a flagship 8 years later. Still, the margins in China were low. Also, the company used a joint venture, rather than full ownership, to enter China. Eventually, the Chinese market succeeded in showing profits, but not as much as other global markets such as the Japanese, French and American markets. It seems to Mr.Yanai that the Chinese economic potential could have been higher. How should UNIQLO enter the India market in order to reveal its full economic potential right from the start?

Entering Malaysia
Mr. Yanai considers if there could be a different strategy to deploy in India, and wonders if UNIQLO could learn from its own Malaysian experience. Malaysia is also a developing country where GDP per capita is higher than India, but still low. Malaysia is somewhat close to India geographically and the country is also crowded. The Malaysians have low brand awareness just like the Indian market (Achue). Differently than China, UNIQLO entered Malaysia with a huge outlet model right from the start. The outlet has an appearance of a flagship, but in contrast, the number of designs is limited and items are sold in a very large volume and color. Malaysia is the 10th country UNIQLO has entered outside Japan since it first debuted overseas in the United Kingdom in 2001 (Ramlee). Fast Retailing formed a joint venture with DNP Clothing “Sdn Bhd” to open and operate stores in Malaysia. Fast Retailing owns 55% of the joint venture, while DNP Clothing controls the rest (Kaizer). UNIQLO Singapore Pte Ltd and UNIQLO Malaysia Sdn Bhd managing director, Satoshi Onoguchi, said that the UNIQLO brand was relatively unknown in Malaysia, therefore the company decided to create brand awareness with a huge store (Ramlee).

The outlet was opened in November 2010 in Kuala Lumpur at Fahrenheit 88 st., and it covers three floors and 27,000 square feet. Soon after the success of the first outlet store, UNIQLO Sdn Bhd established a second store in Malaysia in KLCC shopping mall. The cost of the store was between 20 to 30 million yen, with a floor space of 7,862 square feet and stocks over 300 different items (Achu). Both stores are a huge success. Fast Retailing group executive vice president and UNIQLO managing director for Asia/Japan, Noaki Otoma, said: “Our initial plan was to open five stores within three years in Kuala Lumpur, but looking at the success of our store in Fahrenheit 88 and the acceptance of the new store in Suria KLCC shopping mall, we want to expand more aggressively and open 10 stores by 2014.” Otama added that sales were way above initial expectations (Achu).

Commenting on the price, Otama said that the pricing zone that UNIQLO has chosen is reasonable for customers: “Our advantage is that we are a Japanese brand, which is known for good quality and design, and we are closer in proximity to the Asian countries” (Achu). Mr. Yanai arrives at his office and pauses to think about the Malaysian format of sales. The flagship-outlet format seemed to create a big success, large brand awareness, and was profitable. Malaysia is a developing country and clothes are imported from China, but still the operations are profitable. Should UNIQLO imitate the Malaysian format in India, or are the similarities between the two countries not enough for that strategy to work? The India Potential

According to the International Monetary Fund, India’s nominal GDP stands at US$1.53 trillion, making it the tenth-largest economy in the world. With purchasing power parity (PPP), India’s economy is the fourth largest in the world at US$4.06 trillion (IMF). With its average annual GDP growing at 5.8% for the past two decades, India is also one of the fastest-growing economies in the world (Vanaik). UNIQLO is trying to reach 18% growth per year. A country like India could pose a great growth opportunity. The Indian organized retail industry (“hypermarkets,” supermarkets, department stores, retail-branded stores and specialty chains) is valued at about $300 billion and is expected to grow to $427 billion in 2010 and $637 billion in 2015. The Indian retail market today is the second fastest growing economy of the world after China. The Indian market has become the most lucrative market for retail investment in the world. Some of the factors which have contributed to the growth of organized retail in India are: an increase in the purchasing power of Indians, rapid urbanization, increase in the number of working women, and a large number of working young adults (Kumar).

For years, India has been highly protectionist and resisted international competition and foreign investment. In 1991, India initiated free market reforms and eased the FDI regulations (GARGAN). According to a press note from 2008 by the Indian Ministry of Industrial Policy & Promotion, any foreign investment in the single brand product retailing market can have a maximum FDI cap of 51% equity in the business (CPFDI). For UNIQLO, that means that the company will have to partner with a local firm or individual that will own at least 49% of the company in India. Mr. Otoma, UNIQLO’s chief operating officer, referred to that regulation in December 2010 with a positive outlook: “Although foreign retailers can currently enter India only as minority stakeholders with a local partner, this requirement is likely to change soon. Based on our research, these regulations will likely be dissolved within one year” (Sanchanta). On Tuesday, February 15, 2011, the Government of Japan decided to sign the “Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement” between Japan and India (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan).

Based on this decision, Mr. Seiji Maehara, Minister for Foreign Affairs, and Mr. Anand Sharma, Minister of Commerce and Industry of the Republic of India, signed this Agreement on February 16, 2011. The IJCEPA agreement will abolish tariffs on 94% of trade over 10 years (Firn). It is expected that this agreement will promote the liberalization and facilitation of trade between the two countries (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan). As Yanai said right after the agreement was signed: “We want to study details of the agreement between Japan and India right away.” The agreement will allow UNIQLO to import and export to and from India with minimum tariffs. India’s economic indicators and size of its population pose a tempting opportunity for UNIQLO. Mr. Yanai has to wonder why some of his competitors are already there. H&M has not opened a store in India yet. There is no online discussion regarding the reason why, and Mr. Yanai can only speculate. Gap Inc. franchised 6 GAP stores and 3 banana republic stores (Gapinc). Zara has opened only lately in 2010 and only holds four stores for now (Zara ). Yanai is also considering whether he should wait to find out the outcome of his competitors moves or enter India while his competitors are still weak. The Expected Competition in India

There are 50 million retailers in India. Only 18.9% of organized retailers in India are apparel. H&M and is not located in India and there are only four Zara stores and 6 GAP stores, which don’t presently pose a real threat, but might be in the future. Most clothing competitors in India are small family stores and bazaars. Yanai also remembers the 20,000 people that protested in the streets of Mumbai in 2007 at the biggest protest in the country against large Indian retailers like Reliance and Bharti, and foreign giants like Wal-Mart Stores, whose plan protestors said would destroy millions of livelihoods (M&C Business News) . Yanai is worried that a huge outlet, Malaysian’s style, might be too provocative for the Indian market and competition might react like in the Wal-Mart case.

The Expected Customers in India
The demographics of India are remarkably diverse. India is the second most populous country in the world, with over 1.21 billion people. India has more than 50% of its population below the age of 25 and more than 65% hovers below the age of 35. It is expected that, in 2020, the average age of an Indian will be 29 years, compared to 37 for China and 48 for Japan (CIA – The World Factbook); UNIQLO is targeting this age because younger customers will adopt new fashions faster. Between the ages of 15 to 64, India averages 1.07 males to every female (CIA – The World Factbook). 80.5% of Indians belong to the Hindu religion, 13.4% are Muslim, 2.3% are Christian, 1.9% are Sikh, other religions comprise 1.8%, and “unspecified” is 0.1%. Such a diverse population can be a hazard when building UNIQLO’s strategy. The different religions also demand different dress codes and it is not common for Indian women to wear western clothing. The woman will usually wear a “Sari” and “Salwar Kameez” (Rommi) ; both are clothing styles that are not being sold currently in UNIQLO stores. Would UNIQLO’s Key Success Factors Be Useful in the Indian Market?

To Conclude
India cannot be ignored. The size of the country and the high growth levels present a very strong opportunity for UNIQLO in realizing their expansion plans in Asia. Mr. Yanai and his board have to think very carefully about their strategic move into India. Zara and GAP are already there, and India is on the verge of changing its international policies and infrastructure. Still, the country presents big challenges to any retailer that wants to enter to the country. If the board members decide to enter the Indian market, they will have to agree upon the format of the store, the proposition, the location and the customers targeted. Should UNIQLO start with opening regular stores, a flagship or a huge outlet? Where should they open their stores first? Would the clothing be the same as in Japan, or modified to Indian tastes and religions? Who should UNIQLO target in India; should it target more to women or men? Yanai realizes that the meeting is about to start and that he still does not have the answers in this complicated issue. He calls his wife to inform her that he will be coming home very late… //an interesting ending


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