Fast Retailing Japan Uniqlo Sales Rise Most in 4 Years

Fast Retailing Co.’s Uniqlo brand sales gained the most in almost four years in Japan as Asia’s largest clothing retailer benefited from strong demand for summer apparel.

Same-store sales at Uniqlo Japan outlets rose 29 percent in August as high temperatures drove up sales of summer clothes, Fast Retailing said in a statement to the Tokyo Stock Exchange yesterday. That’s the biggest increase since October 2009, when monthly sales gained 36 percent, according to data on the retailer’s website.

Fast Retailing, led by billionaire Tadashi Yanai, has opened new stores in locations such as Tokyo’s Ginza shopping district under a plan to revamp the Uniqlo brand’s utilitarian image at home. The retailer is expanding outside its home market as it targets sales of 5 trillion yen ($50 billion) by 2020.

“It shows they have the power to gain sales,” said Mikihiko Yamato, deputy head of research at JI Asia in Tokyo. “They did quite a good campaign. Usually retailers prepare autumn goods from the end of the month, but because it was so hot so customers kept coming.”

Fast Retailed dropped 0.6 percent to 33,850 as of 9:01 a.m. Tokyo, paring its gain this year to 55 percent, compared with the 33 percent advance for the broader Topix index.

Discount Appeals

The retailer, based at Yamaguchi, Japan, has also been increasing discounts in Japan to appeal to price sensitive consumers at home. Operating profit at its domestic Uniqlo business dropped 5.4 percent in the third quarter ended May amid discounting and increased marketing investments.

The company in July reported third-quarter net income rose 56 percent to 23 billion yen, aided by a weaker yen. The Japanese currency has dropped almost 13 percent against the dollar this year.

Yanai, Japan’s richest man, is ranked 43rd in Bloomberg Billionaires Index with a net worth of $17.1 billion.

The apparel maker had a total of 2,327 stores globally as of February, with 847 Uniqlo stores in Japan and 359 outlets overseas, according to its website. It got about 77 percent of its revenue from Japan in the year ended August.

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