That’s a dummy, not a customer

WHEN a globally successful fashion-store chain opens up for the first time in a big city’s most prominent shopping district, it might reasonably expect a rush of excited consumers. But when Uniqlo of Japan opened its first midwestern outlet last month, on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile, the reaction was restrained. In its first week of trading, “Some days were busy, others not so much,” says a saleswoman. Many who did turn up were from out of town, she reckons.

Uniqlo did its best to arrive in Chicago with a splash. It took over an “El” (elevated light-rail) train, decorated it with Japanese lanterns and brought over a DJ to pump out Japanese pop as the train travelled round the Loop, the central business district. Chicagoan chefs, cheerleaders, rappers and other “tastemakers” were hired to model Uniqlo’s clothes on its website.

The retailer is performing well at home in Japan, thriving in China, South Korea and Taiwan, and doing not so badly in Europe (though it did close some of its British branches). But America, where it has more than 40 shops, is a different story….Continue reading