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Reuters/Yuya Shino
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Japan’s biggest fashion chain is finally coming to India

By Suneera Tandon

Japanese fast-fashion retailer Uniqlo is set to make its India debut next year.

The retailer, popular for winter-wear, polos in solid colours, and linen shirts, will open its first store in the country in New Delhi in the fall of 2019, the company said on May 09.

Uniqlo has set up a wholly-owned subsidiary in India, choosing to go with 100% foreign investment in single-brand retail instead of a joint venture with an Indian partner. With this, the Japanese major joins the ranks of large global retailers such as H&M and IKEA that are looking to cash in on Asia’s third-largest economy.

“Our entry in India represents a significant step in our company’s global strategy, and we are very pleased and excited to be part of the country’s growing retail market,” said Tadashi Yanai, chairman, president, and CEO of Fast Retailing Co. Ltd., which owns the brand.

The company will soon begin ”recruiting local talent as it prepares to open its store in the world’s fastest-growing major economy,” which also marks its entry into the south Asia region, the statement added.

Uniqlo’s arrival comes at a time when the country’s millennials, starved for fashion, are spending serious money on upgrading their wardrobes. India’s fashion retail business is estimated at $70 billion, which has helped brands such as Swedish retailer H&M and Spanish fast-fashion brand Zara grow their business rapidly.

To be sure, Uniqlo’s offerings differ from those of Zara and H&M, which sell more trendy clothing and jewellery. A typical Uniqlo collection comprises casual clothing such as t-shirts, linen pants, dresses, outerwear, and its signature Heattech winter-wear for men, women, and kids.

Uniqlo, which first opened in Hiroshima in 1984, has been expanding its presence outside Japan. In Japan, it is the country’s largest apparel retail chain, holding a 6.5% share of the market with over 830 stores. Globally, the brand operates 1,089 stores in markets such as the UK, China, South Korea, Singapore, and Russia. In its most recent earnings report, Fast Retailing Co. posted a record operating profit of $1.57 billion for the year ended August 2017, bolstered by a jump in Uniqlo’s international business. Fast Retailing Co. also owns other brands such as GU, Theory, Comptoir des Cotonniers, Princesse tam.tam, and J Brand.

So, by fall of 2019, Indian shoppers can expect to hear the company’s famous greeting: “Welcome to Uniqlo.”