Japan's clothing retailer Uniqlo to buy more from Bangladesh
Japanese retail giant Uniqlo plans to bolster its garment order volumes from Bangladesh, a top official of the company said.
“I do not want to disclose the volume though, as it is a business secret,” Yukihiro Nitta, group executive officer of Fast Retailing, Uniqlo's parent company, told The Daily Star in an interview.
The company has decided to divert 30 percent of its annual purchases from China to Bangladesh, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia and Cambodia.
Bangladesh will be a “significant” beneficiary of this, Nitta said.
“But the garment makers should remember that it is all about quality for the average Japanese consumer. As long as they satisfy the quality-conscious Japanese customer, orders will flow in.”
Nitta praised the country's garment workers, terming them to be “hard-working” and capable of producing “quality” wares. “We are very much satisfied with their work,” he said.
Nitta was recently in Dhaka to announce the opening of two Uniqlo stores in collaboration with Grameen Healthcare Trust, based on Prof Muhammad Yunus' much-prized social business model.
The stores, to be branded as Grameen Uniqlo, will take off on July 5, targeting the under-35 demographic.
The seed for the partnership has been in germination for three to four years ago, he said.
Yunus was addressing a seminar in Tokyo, which was attended by Tadashi Yanai, chairman of Fast Retailing.
“He [Yanai] was so inspired by the social business model that Professor Yunus talked up that he started looking right away for business ventures to implement the idea. Finally in 2011, this opportunity with Grameen Healthcare Trust came up -- and Fast Retailing jumped into it.”
Established in August 2011 with primary investment of $4.6 million, Grameen Uniqlo would 99 percent be owned by Fast Retailing and 1 percent by Grameen Healthcare Trust.
Products to be sold at the two stores would be designed by the company itself in Japan but would be manufactured in Bangladesh. “But I will not disclose the names of the factories.”
Nitta says the Grameen Uniqlo outlets, where the prices would vary from $2.5 to $15.5 a piece, would not be competing with the growing domestic garment brands.
“Rather, we will deliver innovations in designs and fashion to the middle-class customers of Bangladesh. But we have an annual selling target, which will be made public later.”
Regarding Uniqlo's refusal to sign the fire and safety accord designed by IndustriALL, he said: “We have the willingness to continue doing business here for a long time, so we will implement our own safety measures in the factories that we source from.”
Fast Retailing is currently the world's fourth largest apparel company, with global sales for the fiscal year that ended on August 31, 2012 stood at 928 billion yen (approximately $9.5 billion). The company has 1,206 stores in 13 markets, at present.