Fast Retailing is buoyant as international growth accelerates

Fast Retailing, owner of Japan’s popular clothing chain Uniqlo, booked a record annual profit and forecast even stronger results in the current year, helped by growth in Asia and a recovery at its US stores.


Uniqlo


Uniqlo, known for its simple and affordable clothes such as lightweight down jackets, has grown through decades of weak consumption in Japan. It is also proving popular abroad, with overseas sales exceeding domestic revenue for the first time ever in the year ended August.

Its annual operating profit rose 34% to a record ¥236.2 billion ($2.11 billion), the company said on Thursday. That was in line with analysts’ median forecast for ¥237.5 billion, according to Refinitiv data. Uniqlo’s online sales in Japan, long a weak point for the brand, expanded 29% in the year just ended and now accounts for 7% of Uniqlo’s revenue in the country.

It forecast an operating profit of ¥270 billion for the current financial year, above a market consensus for around ¥263 billion, on continued strength in China and Southeast Asia.

Fast Retailing also said it saw an improvement in the US, where it has been shutting down poorly performing stores, saying it was able to halve its operating losses there in the year just ended. The company has struggled to expand in North America, where it has also struggled to establish brand recognition and consumers have at times complained about its smaller sizing. It also faces tough competition from fast-fashion rivals H&M and Zara in that market.

Founder and Chief Executive Tadashi Yanai, one of Japan’s richest entrepreneurs, has said he wants Uniqlo to overtake H&M and Zara parent Inditex as the world’s top apparel retailer.

The retailer flagged its global ambitions earlier this year when tennis star Roger Federer strode onto the court at Wimbledon in Uniqlo-branded whites, in a major sponsorship deal that is reportedly worth around $30 million annually.

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