From a recent RetailWire discussion: The issue is whether Uniqlo (the Japanese “fast fashion” retailer) can establish a beachhead in the U.S. through its website rather than a more aggressive bricks-and-mortar expansion. Here’s my opinion, with some added comments below:
Zara, H & M and even Ikea are great examples of foreign retailers (not necessarily apparel stores) who leveraged both e-commerce and bricks-and-mortar growth to build awareness and a strong U.S. presence. There is some natural synergy between channels that Uniqlo would be smart to learn from. Simply building a web business without opening some tangible “flagship” stores in key markets probably isn’t enough by itself to drive the brand.
Just to add a note: I visited the Uniqlo store on 34th Street in Manhattan last week (one of three New York locations) and the store is stunning. Great presentation, depth of fashion and basic inventory at compelling price points. I don’t think a web presence alone can communicate what’s special about this store, although operating in a smaller footprint (as H&M has learned to do) will be a challenge.