Japanese clothing giant Uniqlo has plans to take over America.
To accomplish this goal, the brand, which has 1,500 stores around the world, is going to great lengths to attract male shoppers.
Apparel retailers have traditionally gone after women, who tend to shop more often and seek out trendy designs.
“We take the men’s business not as a secondary business, but a primary one,” Steven Sare, chief merchandising officer, told Business Insider.
While the brand is already the biggest apparel chain in Asia, executives are currently going after the Western market and have opened nearly 40 stores in America. That number could eventually expand to 1,000.
Sare said that half of Uniqlo’s customers are men, while its specialty retail competitors tend to have more female customers.
Here are a few reasons why men love shopping at Uniqlo.
Uniqlo started in Hiroshima, Japan in the mid-1980s as a unisex clothing company. As a result, many of its designs are simple and classic.
Tadashi Yanai, Uniqlo’s founder, reportedly studied and emulated Gap’s business model. But while the American retailer has tried to market trendy clothing as of late, Uniqlo stuck to the basics.
“The clothes are fairly basic and you don’t have to be a fashionista to figure out how to wear them,” Laura Gurski, a partner of the Retail Practice at consultancy A.T. Kearney, told Business Insider. “Men like this because they can mix and match fairly easily, and don’t have to think too hard about it.”
Uniqlo offers the same men’s shirts in dozens of different colours to simplify the process for men, Sare said.
“Men can find a work shirt that fits, buy it in a couple of different colours, buy some jeans, and be done,” he said.
He said that male shoppers tend to come in less frequently than women, but spend more money per trip.
Business Insider technology editor Steve Kovach said the simplicity of the store has made him a loyal Uniqlo customer.
“I know my size, and can blast through the store in 15 minutes and get the same shirt in just about every pattern,” Kovach said.
Many athletic-wear companies say their products are sweat-wicking, cooling, or thermal.
But Uniqlo was the first company to market the performance qualities of its workwear.
Uniqlo sells work pants that are guaranteed to keep men cool. It also sells a polo with “technology so sweat dries for a smooth, dry, and comfortable feel.”
Men are often persuaded to buy this type of clothing because it is practical and solves a problem, according to Sare.
“Having a product with value and functionality is something that appeals to men over fashion,” he said.
It also resonates with what many of Uniqlo’s male customers have been doing for decades: shopping for performance clothing.
“Many men spend their teens and 20s in sports clothes, so this language is very familiar to them,” Gurski said. “Ultimately, this makes purchasing Uniqlo a familiar experience.”
Just as sportswear brands like Nike and Under Armour sign endorsement deals with celebrity athletes, Uniqlo has paid athletes like tennis star Novak Djokovic to tout its products.
A core tenet of Uniqlo’s business strategy is to market high quality and low prices.
The brand’s inexpensive clothing rose to prominence in Japan during an economic slump in the early ’90s.
“Our prices are incredible,” Sare said. “They’re really wonderful prices given the quality.”
A typical cashmere sweater at Uniqlo costs $US89.90. A similar cashmere sweater at J. Crew costs $US225.
The brand can afford to offer lower prices because of its limited clothing selections, according to New York Magazine.
By offering huge quantities of a few items, Uniqlo can better negotiate on the price of the fabrics it uses.
The company can then pass that cost savings on to consumers.
Low prices particularly interest men, because they care more about practicality than fashion when shopping.
Uniqlo’s research and development department tirelessly works to improve the fit of its clothing, Gurski said.
“Uniqlo’s clothing is often more fitted than [offerings from] many competitors, because they have done extensive research on what male shoppers want to wear,” she said. “The company has realised that a significant segment of men don’t want to wear a shirt that looking like a box; they want fitted clothes.”
Uniqlo also offers complimentary tailoring on its jeans, a great perk considering most of the brand’s pants cost less than $US50.
Business Insider lifestyle reporter and Uniqlo customer Dennis Green says the fits at Uniqlo are better than they are many comparable retailers.
“Their typical fit is much more flattering to the average male on the skinny side compared to anything from a similar retailer like Gap or department stores, which frequently design their clothes with much more generous cuts,” Green said.
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