Uniqlo Owner Posts Record Profits

Cheap-Chic Concept Is Winning Consumers Around the World

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Flying in the face of a recession that's clobbered the retail sector, Japan's Fast Retailing, operator of Cannes favorite Uniqlo, posted record annual profits Thursday.

Credit goes to Uniqlo's uber-popular cheap-chic style, clever store design and flashy digital marketing, all combining to create a concept that is catching on around the globe. The chain's opening in the snobbery bastion of Paris caused a minor sensation, with lines wrapping around the building.

Fast Retailing, which also owns the fashion brand Foot Park, Comptir des Cotnonniers and other companies, saw its revenue go up 16%, net profit rise 14% and its operating profit surge more than 24% to $1.2 billion.

A press release said the results were driven by "the strengthening of our advertising and promotion activities" as well as its array of products, including new skirts and jackets for women.

"Uniqlo is gaining global recognition as a new brand that is different from (competitors) H&M, Zara or Gap," Fast Retailing President Tadashi Yanai was quoted as saying in The Wall Street Journal. Uniqlo also has stores in London and New York and has its sights set on Moscow and Shanghai.

Revenue generated by Uniqlo, which has just less than 850 stores, increased 29% While the brand's Western expansion has grabbed the attention of the media, Mr. Yanai said that Asia offers the greatest growth opportunity. The goal is to have more than 100 stores in China by 2011 and 100 in South Korea by 2012, according to the Journal. Also under consideration is a push into Southeast Asia and Australia.

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