Things have been more than a bit frosty in East Asia over the last year or so. China and Japan continue to butt heads over a handful of goat-infested islands. Meanwhile, relations between Korea and Japan continue to sour as Japan’s ascendent right reopens World War II-era wounds over the Japanese use of sex slaves in Korea.
That’s why results posted by parent of cheap-chic retailer Uniqlo—Japan’s Fast Retailing Co.—come as something of an unlikely bright spot. Fast Retailing, Asia’s largest apparel retailer, according to Bloomberg, posted record results for the year through August, thanks to strong contributions from Uniqlo shops. The Financial Times reports:
Fast Retailing’s strong performance came on the back of growing sales at its Uniqlo stores in overseas markets, particularly China, South Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan, at a time when Japan’s ties with China and South Korea in particular were strained over sovereignty issues. In September, Japanese stores were looted in several Chinese cities after Japan bought islands in the East China Sea that are also claimed by China. A row over a disputed island also strained relations with South Korea. The disputes led to boycotts of Japanese goods in both countries.
So, might not an international love affair with Uniqlo skinny jeans herald a coming era of world peace? Not exactly. Uniqlo did actually shutter 60 of its 169 Chinese stores during September as a result of the territorial tumult. And Fast Retailing officials did admit that sales in China slowed between September and mid-October but said they bounced back as the weather turned colder.
It seems that if Uniqlo can claim any responsibility in warming of relations between Chinese consumers and Japan, it will be not because of skinny jeans but its Heattech thermal underwear.