Retail in Asia

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Japan’s Adastria takes on Uniqlo, Muji with new chain

Last month, Adastria opened the first stores in a new chain which will take on Uniqlo and Muji in the casual basic apparel market.

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Rather than mimic competitors, Adastria will differentiate by focusing solely on consumers in their 20s to 40s, allowing for more of a fashion slant to merchandising.

Called Smile Seed Store (but with Global Work in smaller caps), the first two stores opened last month in Hachioji and Funabashi in residential neighbourhoods – very different from Adastria’s normal locations in high traffic malls. Over 150 stores are planned in the first four to five years.

Smile Seed Store is focused on everyday wear, with merchandise split 55 percent for women, 30 percent men’s and 15 percent childrenswear.

If Adastria can execute well, plans could result in a major new chain for Japan’s third biggest clothing retailer. Source: Shutterstock

Unlike Adastria’s main brands like Global Work and Lowry’s Farm, Smile Seed Store offers many more basic items at prices competitive with Uniqlo and Muji.

Competition will be stiff. Neither Uniqlo nor Muji are standing still, with both adjusting merchandising regularly to meet current demand and trends.

But one advantage Adastria will have is its reach. Although, in Japan, Uniqlo has 800 stores and Muji over 400, Adastria has one of the more progressive online stores, “.St”, which now has 15 million registered customers and which accounted for 15 percent of Adastria’s JPY201 billion (USD1.49 billion) sales last year – total e-commerce sales reached nearly 30 percent of sales.

A quick rollout to achieve economies of scale and effective marketing through .St should give the new chain a chance. Adastria may well have identified a large gap in the market too. Japan’s biggest apparel chains are now ubiquitous and merchandise seemingly homogenous so, for a growing number of consumers in Adastria’s target of teens to 40s, boredom set in a while ago.

Demand for something fresh and a bit more fashion forward has been growing for some years even in the basics category and, if Adastria can execute well, could result in a major new chain for Japan’s third biggest clothing retailer.

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This will add to numerous other new ventures, not least its new licensing programme that started with Forever 21, and its move to take over the apparel sales floors of GMS chains.

(Source: Japan Consuming)