Retail in Asia


Retail legends: Tadashi Yanai of Uniqlo

With a net worth of US$13.7 billion (as of 3 July 2016), Tadashi Yanai still tops Japan’s richest person list despite a US$4.8 billion drop in his fortune in the last year.

The 67-year-old founder of Uniqlo and head of Fast Retailing — which also owns brands like Theory, J Brand, Gu and Competoir des Cotonniers — shows no signs of slowing with his eyes on global domination.

In an interview with Jaime Ee of The Business Times, he shared the following thoughts:

On going global:

“[It] was always our plan from the very start… We wanted to differentiate ourselves from Western brands. At the time, most Japanese people feared going abroad because it meant tapping into something they didn’t know. But for me, I was just excited about the challenge.”

On Uniqlo’s success in Asia:

“Partly because the countries are physically closer to Japan. There’s cultural similarities because of Confucianism and also the body size is similar to Japanese. Caucasians are round like pillars. They have very thick arms, you know.”

On large organizations:

“Many businesses want stability over challenge. Even if you talk to university graduates, they all want to work for the big powerhouses, the large corporations because they are looking for stability, but I do not believe these large organisations are always safe.”

On the state of Japan:

“The future looks very gloomy, I’m afraid. The government is only about spending money, not making it. The bureaucrats are only interested in getting more votes. That’s very bad from my perspective. It’s not about the current administration. Whichever party you look at, they are alike. I hate bureaucrats and politicians.”

On failure:

“Being ashamed of failure is something I disagree with. If everyone is successful in the business, everybody will go into it. But a lot of people fail. And they tend to give up when they do. But never give up. You have to challenge yourself to do it again and again and you have to explore why you fail. You have to analyse what you have to do to be successful in the second attempt.”


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