HO CHI MINH CITY -- Japanese casual clothing retailer Uniqlo on Thursday announced that it would open its first store in Vietnam in fall 2019, in a bid to capitalize on the fastest-growing economy in Southeast Asia.
"The Southeast Asia region has been an important driver of growth for us, and we are pleased and optimistic about our opportunity to be a part of such an exciting economy and retail market," said Tadashi Yanai, Chairman and CEO of Uniqlo's parent company Fast Retailing, the world's third-largest apparel company.
Its first store in Vietnam will be in Ho Chi Minh City, the country's economic hub, and operated through a joint venture between Fast Retailing and Mitsubishi Corporation, who will own 75% and 25% of the company, respectively.
Uniqlo will soon begin recruiting local staff for the launch. "We look forward to introducing Uniqlo and our high quality, affordable LifeWear apparel in Vietnam," Yanai said.
The Japanese retailer plans to double the number of its stores in Southeast Asia and Oceania to about 400 by 2022. Uniqlo's global network spans 20 markets in Asia, Europe, North America and Australia, operating roughly 2,000 stores, according to the company.
The company also aims triple the revenue it generates in the region to 300 billion yen ($2.71 billion) in the year ending August 2022. That would mark a faster rate of growth than that of the company as a whole, which expects revenue to double to 3 trillion yen over the same period.
The announcement of the Vietnam expansion comes shortly after the opening of the first Uniqlo store in Sweden, the home market of competitor Hennes & Mauritz on Aug. 24. Uniqlo's arrival is set to intensify the competition between foreign brands like Zara and H&M in the Southeast Asian country.
Zara entered Vietnam in September 2016, and currently operates two outlets in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. H&M has expanded to six outlets since launching its first in Ho Chi Minh City in September 2017, split evenly between the economic hub and the capital. Both companies tend to operate stores inside trading centers operated by real estate conglomerate Vingroup.
Currently, Vietnamese can only buy Uniqlo goods from independent local retailers or order them from Japan.
"I've been wanting to shop at an official Uniqlo store in Vietnam for years," said Nguyen Van Anh, a fan of the brand. She said she spent about $500 a year on Uniqlo goods. But most of the clothes she buys online are the previous season's and the number of designs is limited as she buys them during the sales.
International brands have flocked to Vietnam since it opened up its retail market to foreign investment in 2015, having joined the World Trade Organization 2007.
The market is estimated to grow to more than $3.8 billion this year, and increase to over $5 billion by 2021, according to BMI Research.