Uniqlo plans fast Asia expansion, explains Roger Federer deal

​Uniqlo has elaborated on the reasons for it signing Roger Federer to a $300 million endorsement deal and also talked about its plans for breakneck speed growth in Asia.


Uniqlo


The brand signed Federer to a 10-year deal earlier this summer and led many analysts to question why a company which isn’t known for its sports links would spend so much on a tennis star nearing the end of his sports career.

But the brand’s global creative director John Jay said that the collaboration is “much bigger than sports” with Federer set to offer input on design, to be a powerful focal point for its marketing, and to wear the brand’s clothes both on court and off.

In a Wall Street Journal interview, Jay added that “we develop high-performance clothes for everyone off the court, and we’d like to think the technology is good enough for an athlete.”

Not that a tennis link was completely surprising for Uniqlo, the brand having previously dressed Novak Djokovic, who has now moved on to Lacoste. But it was perhaps a surprise that Federer cut his ties with Nike after spending two decades wearing that sports giant’s label.

It’s interesting that Uniqlo’s Jay also said Federer’s image as a fairly private person off the court wasn’t a problem and is part of his appeal.“There’s a certain level of being discreet and private that we cherish,” he said. “Of course, we’re running a business, but we very much respect that part of his life. One day he will retire from tennis, but he’s not retiring from life.” 

Meanwhile Federer said his love of fashion and travel, and his affinity for Asia, make him a strong global ambassador for the brand.

“What really resonated with me when we were speaking to Uniqlo was that they respected me not just as an athlete but also as a person with interests and passions beyond the sport,” he told WSJ. “I have to eventually think about life after tennis and Uniqlo was a great match for that.”

Of course, the Federer deal will help raise Uniqlo’s profile in the US and Europe. But the company is also heavily focused on Asia and plans to double its store numbers across Southeast Asia and Oceania to around 400 by 2022.

A senior executive said this week that it would emphasise standalones in suburban areas and extend its reach beyond malls as part of its plan to triple the region’s revenue by 2022 to ¥300 billion.

"We opened our first roadside store in ASEAN in Thailand in March, and it has been a huge success," Satoshi Hatase, group senior VP of brand owner Fast Retailing, told the Nikkei Asian Review in an interview.

A second standalone has since opened in Thailand with more planned and the next countries on the list for fast expansion are expected to be the Philippines and Malaysia.

If it achieves its target of 400 stores, that would see it being larger than global rivals such as Zara and H&M in the region.

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