Japanese retailer Uniqlo will officially open the doors to its Fifth Avenue global flagship on Friday, Oct. 14. But after a sneak peak of the store, all I can say is “Wow!” At 89,000 sq. ft., Uniqlo is massive — with 100 fitting rooms, 45 checkouts, 100 LCD screens, four glass elevators, and three floors of merchandise. It feels more like a high-tech department store than a specialty store. (Click here to see photos.)
Uniqlo has a sleek, modern and high-tech look and global feel. And both are perfectly in synch with the fashions on display. The colorful merchandise demands attention, presented against a white backdrop that is accented with glass and steel. With their fast-changing, novel content, LCD and LED screens lend a dynamic pace to the store. And I loved the spinning mannequins.
But the real story here is not the store design, or even the merchandise, some of which is quite innovative (an ultra-light down jacket, for example, can be folded into a small pouch). It is the arrival of a formidable retail player — one whose inexpensive-to-moderate price points are in touch with the times — to the already competitive U.S. market. Sure, Uniqlo has operated a store in Manhattan’s Soho for a couple of years now. But that was merely a prelude. In recent months, Uniqlo has made no secret of its expansion plans. The new flagship, which is wildly ambitious in its creation and execution, just how determined it is.
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