Moscow: Japanese clothing retailer Uniqlo may enter the high-growth markets of India and Brazil in coming years if its new expansion in Russia is a success, its chief operating officer said.
Uniqlo parent company Fast Retailing opened the first Russian Uniqlo store in a Moscow shopping mall on Friday, and hopes to open a total of 10 over the next three years, Naoki Otoma told Reuters in an interview.
“We think that there are four countries whose importance globally will be increasing and that are important for us. First China, then Russia, Brazil and India,” Otoma said through a translator.
“We already have 47 stores in China and would like to enter India and Brazil, probably not tomorrow but within several years. But it is very important for us to succeed in Russia in order to go to India and Brazil,” he said.
The Uniqlo brand is currently focused on dotting the map of Europe with its large, flagship stores, which it wants to open in major cities like Madrid, Barcelona, Berlin and Milan.
“We are watching what other companies do in these cities and believe that there is potential to open quite a large number of stores there. Germany is the biggest country with a lot of big cities,” Otoma said.
The Moscow store is the first move into Russia by Fast Retailing, which now operates around 800 Uniqlo stores in Japan and more than 120 in overseas markets including the UK.
Its global competitors — Zara owner Inditex and Swedish brand H&M — have already opened in Russia’s biggest shopping malls.
“We see that the Russian consumer highly appreciates and favours imported clothes and that is what we offer,” Otoma said.
Uniqlo performed well during the crisis as thrifty shoppers snapped up its relatively cheap merchandise, although March same store sales slumped 16%.
Otoma said Russia’s economy had strong growth potential and that incomes would rise, helping the retail market to recover its earlier verve.
“We sell casual clothes, and not cocktail dresses. The crisis indeed had a negative impact but people are getting more selective, and this is where we get a chance - when it passes from spontaneous to considered buys.”