The convenience store giant and the operator of the Uniqlo casualwear chain will create a new brand for apparel as early as this year, tapping Fast Retailing's expertise as a clothing designer, manufacturer and retailer. Seven & i has been pursuing an omnichannel strategy integrating e-commerce and brick-and-mortar stores. It aims to cultivate a unique brand that will become a major customer draw.
Uniqlo will let customers pick up online orders at any of the roughly 18,000 7-Eleven stores across Japan. It is mulling permitting returns there as well, which would let consumers use their neighborhood convenience stores as Uniqlo outlets of a sort.
The partners intend to work together overseas as well. Seven & i's 38,000 locations outside Japan can complement the sales network of Uniqlo, which has sought to tap overseas markets amid diminishing room for growth in Japan.
Seven & i and Fast Retailing will consider sharing logistics centers and jointly distributing products. In addition to its convenience stores nationwide, Seven & i also owns Ito-Yokado and Sogo & Seibu, which sell clothing and household goods in major urban areas. It aims to streamline distribution through better use of logistics networks.
Seven & i's group sales, including convenience store franchises, broke 10 trillion yen ($79.9 billion) for the first time in the fiscal year ended Feb. 28. It is the uncontested winner in the convenience store market, boasting a nearly 40% share. Fast Retailing leads Japan's specialty apparel retailers, with a nearly 10% market share. This partnership between industry giants with strong product development and sales capabilities could send rivals scrambling to follow suit, industry watchers say.