Uniqlo Confirms Expansion To Canada By 2016

uniqlo1UNIQLO, the global casual fashion retailer from Japan confirmed this week its long anticipated expansion into Canada. In the fall of 2016, Uniqlo Canada Inc., a newly formed wholly owned subsidiary of Fast Retailing Inc. will open two stores at leading shopping centres in the Toronto area.

“Entering the Canadian market is a milestone for the company and a significant step in our growth strategy,” said Larry Meyer, in a press release. Meyer is CEO of UNIQLO USA and Canada, and group senior vice president of retailing at Fast Retailing.

Yorkdale Shopping Centre and The Toronto Eaton Centre Uniqlo stores will carry a full range of men’s, women’s and children’s items in flagship 24,000 and 28,000 square feet spaces respectively.

uniqlo2UNIQLO Private brand assortment for men, women and kids
Along with premium denim jeans, supima cotton T-shirts, polo’s and fleece, the value-oriented apparel retailer includes a number of tech-driven proprietary private brand collections. Various improved wearability benefits are claimed, such as improved insulation, breathability and odor control properties. Uniqlo’s private brands include:

AIRism, ‘cool and dry’ bra tops, tanks, camisoles, t-shirts with anti-odor properties

HEATTECH a four-year old collection including foundation camisoles, t-shirts, leggings; it is designed for warmth and comfort and has been made with Camellia oil, often used in cosmetics, is woven into the fabrics that is supposed to create a softer feeling on the skin.

Ultra-Light Down is an insulating fill that Uniqlo offers in compact jackets and vests keep you warm without the bulk

Canadian private label apparel retail market shifting
UNIQLO joins a number of other private brand apparel retail announcements already in 2015. While the total Canadian apparel market is essential flat, both incumbent and new entrant retailers are positioning themselves as the fight for market share intensifies.

Last week Target Canada surprised by announcing it will retreat from the Canadian market, and Holt Renfrew–which offers mostly designer branded apparel, as well a some private label products–has just closed three of its stores. Uniqlo’s moderately priced fashion basics for the whole family will compete with Joe Fresh.

Mexx Canada, which offered private brand fashion for men, women and children, filed for bankruptcy and will close its 95 stores by the end of February. Smart Set (division of Reitman’s) will close or transform 107 locations by the end of this year.

Other Canadian private label apparel chains such as Jacob, have also struggled to compete with much larger foreign entrants at the mass market including Zara, H&M, Forever21, and the more upscale Club Monaco, Ann Taylor, and WhiteHouseBlackMarket.

UNIQLO joins other retailers in recent Canadian expansion plan announcements. La Maison Simons, a Quebec-based high fashion retailer with strong private apparel brands such as Twik, announced last week it plans open a sixth 88,000 s.f. location in Edmonton’s Londonderry Mall in fall 2017.

Further Canadian expansion planned
Meyer also confirmed the next market to see UNIQLO brand “with a presence in the lovely city of Vancouver.” 

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Christopher Durham is the president of My Private Brand and the co-founder of The Vertex Awards. He is a strategist, author, consultant and retailer who built brands at Delhaize-owned Food Lion, and lead strategy and brand development for Lowe’s Home Improvement. He has consulted with retailers around the world on their private brand portfolios including: Family Dollar, Petco, Staples, Office Depot, Best Buy, Metro (Canada), TLW (Taiwan) and Hola (Taiwan). Durham has published five definitive books on private brands, including his first book, Fifty2: The My Private Brand Project. In 2017, he will debut his newest book, Vanguard: Vintage Originals, a visual tour of innovation and disruption in private brand going back to the mid-1800’s. Dynamic in his presentation while down to earth and frank in his opinions, he has presented at numerous conferences, including FUSE, The Dieline Conference, Packaging that Sells, Omnishopper and PLMA’a annual trade show in Chicago. Durham lives in Charlotte, NC with his wife, Laraine, and two daughters, Olivia and Sarah.