Uniqlo to open mega store at Orchard Central

The Uniqlo store in Suntec City. Announcement of the brand’s expansion highlights the big plans the company has for its South-east Asian markets.
The Uniqlo store in Suntec City. Announcement of the brand’s expansion highlights the big plans the company has for its South-east Asian markets.PHOTO: ST FILE

The first global flagship store in South-east Asia, to be located at Orchard Central, will offer high-tech displays and an extensive range of products

Despite reports that overall retail sales in Singapore have been taking a hit in recent months, Japanese casual wear label Uniqlo yesterday announced plans to open its first global flagship store here, in the third quarter of this year.

The 2,700 sq m store will take up three levels at Orchard Central and will offer high-tech displays and an extensive range of products, including the latest lines for women and men, as well as children and babies.

The announcement marks Uniqlo's first global flagship store in South-east Asia. It has them in 13 other key locations, including New York's Fifth Avenue, London's Oxford Street and Ginza in Tokyo.

It is undoubtedly a brand that has come a long way from its humble beginnings as a small division of a larger Japanese men's clothing retailer in the 1940s. The brand took on its current form in the 1980s, naming itself Uniqlo as a cool combination of unique and clothing.

Uniqlo's chief executive of South-east Asia, Mr Taku Morikawa, said of the expansion plans here: "Having been a member of the local retail scene since 2009, we remain committed towards contributing to the local community and being an integral part of Singapore's growth and future."

He added that the opening of the flagship store will create more than 300 jobs in Singapore.

According to a spokesman for the brand, most of the newly created jobs will be for associates at the store, though the team will also be expanding as a whole to support the store.

Uniqlo's latest announcement highlights the big plans the company has for its South-east Asian markets - never mind the challenging retail environment, high rents and expensive man- power costs the company has to face in Singapore.

According to tourism board data interpreted by property adviser CBRE, the average amount of money each tourist spends on shopping here has also been decreasing year on year, dropping from $341 in 2010 to $273 in 2014.

Still, Uniqlo seems to be ready to take the retail gamble.

In the seven years since entering Singapore, it has expanded rapidly across the island and operates 24 stores here. Overall, the company operates 1,700 stores in 17 markets worldwide, 123 of which are in South-east Asia.

And despite the numerous stores Uniqlo already has in Singapore, shoppers and retailers The Straits Times talked to are happy about the news of Uniqlo's expansion at Orchard Central.

Ms Mavis Seow, chief operating officer of the retail business group at Far East Organization which manages Orchard Central, said of the announcement: "Together with Uniqlo's latest extensive range of products, shoppers can look forward to a brand-new experience with the inclusion of fresh lifestyle brands and F&B names when enhancements to the mall are completed by the third quarter of the year."

Other fast-fashion brands such as H&M are also positive about the developments along Orchard Road, saying that an increase in foot traffic will benefit all retailers.

Mr Fredrik Famm, country manager for H&M South-east Asia, said of the development: "This would definitely create a more vibrant and exciting shopping atmosphere, and drive more traffic to the Somerset area. It is a win-win situation for both brands."

H&M currently operates a store just down the road from Orchard Central at 1 Grange Road.

Fans of Uniqlo, such as Ms Susan Mah, 33, who are taken by the casual vibe of the fast fashion brand, said the announcement was not only exciting but also a long time coming.

The financial professional, who frequently shops at the brand's 12-storey flagship store at Tokyo's famed Ginza shopping belt, said: "Uniqlo is a really popular brand in South-east Asia, so I'm glad it will bring some excitement to Orchard Central, which is a mall I don't really frequent otherwise. I'm also hoping it means we'll have access to a wider range of products, some of which are hard to find outside of the global flagship stores."

Others such as tech entrepreneur Nila Sen, 29, said they hope the new store will allow for more interesting collaborations.

"Even though there are lots of Uniqlo outlets in Singapore, it will be good to have all the product ranges available at one location," she said. "Plus, the new store might also give us access to more cool collaborations. I hope I can finally get my hands on the exclusive collections that never make it out of the flagship stores."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 30, 2016, with the headline 'Uniqlo to open mega store here'. Print Edition | Subscribe