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Uniqlo debuts in India as global rivalries in apparel heat up

CEO Yanai says Japanese brand will hit Ho Chi Minh City soon

A customer browses for clothes at Uniqlo's first store in India. Asia has become the primary growth driver for parent Fast Retailing as purchasing power in the region rises. (Photo by Rie Ishii)

NEW DELHI/TOKYO -- Japanese fashion giant Fast Retailing opened its first Uniqlo store in India on Friday, marking the brand's latest market debut following a September launch in Italy.

Fast Retailing is positioned as one of the top apparel brands after Zara and H&M, with revenue of 2.1 trillion yen ($19.6 billion) in the fiscal year ended August 2018.

The company's latest debut comes as leading players in the industry struggle in mature markets. Forever 21 filed for bankruptcy last month, withdrawing from many Asian markets, including Japan.

Fast Retailing Chairman and CEO Tadashi Yanai said during a news conference in New Delhi that the first Uniqlo store in Vietnam will open soon in Ho Chi Minh City.

About 300 people lined up to await the opening of the store in a busy New Delhi shopping district. "I've heard a lot about Uniqlo's good quality, so I wanted to see for myself," said 30-year-old Alisha Kapoor, who visited the store on Friday.

The company is planning to open two more stores in the vast Delhi metropolitan area this fall, targeting the country's growing middle class. The three stores will be test grounds before the company decides its long-term strategy in the country, Yanai told reporters.

India is the 24th overseas market for the company, which operates more than 2,000 Uniqlo stores worldwide. Earlier this year, it opened stores in Denmark and Italy.

China and other parts of Asia have become primary growth drivers for Fast Retailing as purchasing power in the region rises.

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