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Business

Uniqlo to bring semi-custom threads to the world

Service to spread from Japan and US to greater Asia and Europe

A Uniqlo store in Tokyo's Ginza district. (Photo by Tsuyoshi Tamehiro)

TOKYO -- Japanese fast-fashion juggernaut Uniqlo plans to broaden sales of semi-made-to-order clothing around the world with the aim of accelerating growth.

The Fast Retailing unit already offers made-to-measure clothing in Japan. The customer supplies measurements or has them taken in-store, places an order, and receives the item at home in days.

A similar service recently debuted in the U.S., starting with men's shirts. More than 800 color and style combinations are offered online, with orders delivered in three to seven business days. At $29.90, the pieces are as affordable as regular shirt selections.

Chinese facilities producing quality clothing for Uniqlo will handle production of semi-custom apparel. Uniqlo plans to offer the service in Southeast Asia, Europe and elsewhere as well.

Uniqlo has kept prices low by mass-producing pieces designed and planned far in advance of sales.

But as consumer tastes diversify, Fast Retailing Chairman and CEO Tadashi Yanai is pushing data-driven production and retailing as a new business model.

The company is starting out with semi-custom clothing to establish the production and sales infrastructure for bespoke offerings down the road.

Uniqlo's online sales total an estimated 100 billion yen ($881 million) globally. Fast Retailing targets worldwide sales of 3 trillion yen, including from other brands. Global online sales, propelled by semi-custom clothing, should come to account for roughly 30%, or 1 trillion yen, of overall sales, according to Yanai.

Such e-commerce giants as Amazon.com of the U.S. are stepping up apparel sales. Japanese clothiers, too, are shifting away from cookie-cutter offerings. Zozotown e-tailing website operator Start Today plans to launch custom-made apparel.

(Nikkei)

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