Uniqlo ready to set up 1000 stores in India

NEW DELHI: Japanese retail giant Uniqlo on Wednesday suggested that it will open up to 1,000 stores in India in the coming years to tap into the growing consumption story and announced a strategy to source garments from the country.

Two sources familiar with the development told TOI that Uniqlo chairman and CEO Tadashi Yanai, who met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other ministers, disclosed the plan to open stores during these interactions. “We are looking to invest in the retail business in India… We will look to open 1,000 stores but it will take more than ten years as it is not easy to open so many stores,” said a source, who did not wish to be identified. When contacted, a company executive said Yanai was not available for comment.

Uniqlo, which started as a chain of suburban roadside stores in Japan, is targeting close to 1,500 stores across the globe by the end of August. Currently, it has 632 stores outside Japan and moved into malls a decade ago, the company website said. Now, its strategy involves opening flagship stores in the plush shopping districts of New York, London and Shanghai.

The Japanese chain has been looking at entering India for the past few years but had deferred its plans. It is not clear if it will rope in a partner for its single-brand retail foray or operate through a wholly-owned subsidiary in the country.

Several foreign retailers have set up shop in India through the single-brand window, which includes the likes of Marks and Spencer, IKEA and Hennes & Mauritz (H&M). But, most are moving ahead with their plans at a measured pace. For instance, IKEA is yet to open its first store despite getting government approval a year ago. H&M had said it plans to open 50 outlets in 2014.

Before Uniqlo enters the retail business, it wants to have a pool of vendors to source garments. The company is in talks with the Apparel Export Promotion Council (AEPC) to identify 10 garment exporters, which have scale and comply with international specifications and standards. Sources said that the Japanese firm may invest in some of the Indian companies, if required.

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