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Japan's Uniqlo closes store citing China online strategy mismatch

[SHANGHAI] Fast Retailing Co Ltd said on Monday it has closed the online Uniqlo store that it opened in April on China's popular Inc shopping site, saying it did fit into its China e-commerce strategy.

After a three-month trial run, "Uniqlo determined that a presence on was not in line with the company's China e-commerce strategy", said a spokeswoman for Fast Retailing, which owns the casual-clothing brand. "During the trial run, we realised that it is best for us to take a step back," she told Reuters.

She declined to disclose details about the performance of the online site or specify the firm's e-commerce strategy, but said Uniqlo was committed to the China market, both online and offline. and larger rival Alibaba Group Holding Ltd have been vying to attract big, international brands onto their platforms. Bagging such names can be a huge credibility boost and a sign of implicit trust in China, a market notorious for the proliferation of fake and knock-off products.

Uniqlo's speedy retreat from stands in contrast to its robust presence since 2009 on Alibaba's Tmall platform. During Alibaba's annual Singles Day sales event last November, Uniqlo was fifth in overall sales and the top apparel brand, the spokeswoman said. spokesman Josh Gartner said sales on Uniqlo's store had exceeded aggressive sales targets in the first month of operation. "Uniqlo is stopping operation of its flagship store due to an e-commerce strategic restructuring in China, not based on the performance of the store," he said.

The Japanese company is expanding rapidly in China as it aims to become the world's biggest apparel retailer ahead of Zara-owner Inditex SA, Hennes & Mauritz AB (H&M) and Gap Inc by 2020.

Fast Retailing Chief Executive Tadashi Yanai has said Uniqlo aimed to have 1,000 stores in Greater China in about five years, more than its Japan total - and eventually as many as 3,000. It had 442 in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan as of end-May.

Japan's stock market was closed on Monday for a public holiday. On Friday, Fast Retailing's shares gained 1.1 per cent to close at 57,220 yen (S$632.36).