Uniqlo ‘Revival’ Seen as Warm Weather, Price Strategy Lift Sales

  • Fast Retailing adjusting brand’s strategy to ‘lowest’ price
  • Owner’s shares rise as much as 4.3% to highest since end-March

Fast Retailing Co. rose toward the highest close in four months, bucking the broader slump in Japanese stocks, as warm weather and a shift in strategy to focus on lowering prices boosted domestic sales at its Uniqlo brand of casual-wear.

Uniqlo’s sales for Japanese outlets open at least a year rose 18 percent in July from a year earlier, the biggest increase since April 2015, the Tokyo-based company said Tuesday, citing warm weather which boosted sales of summer items. Customer traffic rose 8 percent, the most since January 2014, after rising only in one other month over the past year.

Fast Retailing shares rose as much as 4.3 percent to 35,080 yen in Tokyo trading, the highest intraday level since April 1. The Topix index fell as much as 2.3 percent.

The retailer’s billionaire chairman Tadashi Yanai in May pledged to offer the “lowest possible price” after Uniqlo’s attempts to charge more for its products due to rising material costs caused sales to slump. The strategy shift is in the right direction and business operations improved, Chief Financial Officer Takeshi Okazaki said on July 14.

Brand Revival

July’s improving sales points to a “revival” in the iconic Japanese brand, Nomura Securities analyst Masafumi Shoda said in a report, titled “Uniqlo Revives.” He raised his price target for Fast Retailing by 15.5 percent to 41,000 yen, and maintained a “buy” recommendation for the stock.

A stronger yen remains as hurdle for Fast Retailing, as that would curb the value of repatriated earnings from its overseas units and foreign-currency denominated assets. CFO Okazaki said last month he is hoping the yen will be stable, as the company cut its net income forecast for the year ending August by 25 percent due to an estimated 37 billion yen ($366 million) in foreign exchange loss.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if the shares rose further but the overall market is under pressure from a stronger yen,” Dairo Murata, an analyst at JPMorgan Securities Japan Co. said on phone, referring to Fast Retailing’s stock.

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