BANGKOK, March 23 — Normally, the opening of yet another Uniqlo store in Bangkok isn’t met with that much excitement. Or fanfare.
But the Japanese apparel retailer’s 36th store in the city is not your average Uniqlo. It is a “roadside store” and the brand’s first of its kind in South-east Asia.
The stand-alone store, located at Phatthanakan 58 in East Bangkok, spreads over 1,440 square metres and is expected to draw 2,000 visitors a day.
It boasts a large parking lot that can accommodate up to 60 cars, and as per the brand’s tried-and-tested retailing format, it has been carefully designed to ensure ample space and accessibility for all, including families with children, the elderly and people with disabilities. The Phatthanakan store also features a special new type of waiting area, the first of its kind for Uniqlo in Thailand. Decked out in Disney’s iconic entertainment motifs, it serves as a play area for children while parents take a breather from shopping.
In keeping with a tradition set at the first Uniqlo store opening in 1984, the store opened its doors at the auspicious time of 6am (Bangkok time) earlier today.
Eager shoppers had lined up outside the store as early as 4am, and by 6am, there were over 600 of them in line. The early birds were rewarded with a Japanese-Thai fusion breakfast, as well as a discount voucher and a tumbler.
While the eastern suburb in Bangkok isn’t exactly known as a shopping haven, the spot was chosen due to the high population — 700,000 households — in its nearby residential area, as well as for its strategic location that connects the eastern part of the city to downtown. Thailand is the fourth country in the world to have a roadside Uniqlo store, following Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.
Roadside stores growing fast worldwide
Operating roadside stores is a core domestic strategy for Uniqlo, which has proven to be successful since its first opening in Japan in 1985. Of the 800 stores opened in the country since then, about half have been roadside stores.
The central promise of the model is simple: Local, one-stop shopping for customers to enjoy close to home, while making a positive contribution to the local community.
“In line with the philosophy of our roadside stores, our hope is for Uniqlo Phattanakan to boost the vitality of the local area by becoming a lifestyle and cultural hub — a place where the local community gathers.
“In addition to a personal and convenient shopping experience, all of our roadside stores aim to stimulate long lasting and stable economic prosperity for local communities by raising property values and attract new and sustainable businesses around each new store location,” said Satoshi Hatase, CEO of Uniqlo South-east Asia.
Regional sales hit ¥110 billion (RM4.07 billion) in 2017. With continued expansion and the introduction of the roadside model, the company expects sales in South-east Asia to grow by 30 per cent a year for the next five years.
“We are fully committed to South-east Asia, now a key growth engine for Uniqlo globally.
“We aim to become No 1 in terms of customer satisfaction and brand popularity. We want to be the favourite brand of South-east Asia,” said Hatase.
Besides strong purchasing power, the fact that the majority of Thai people are car owners was another factor Thailand became the company’s first choice to carry out the format in South-east Asia. Next in the pipeline will be Malaysia, followed by the Philippines.
“With increasing vehicle ownership and congestion in this region, roadside stores will provide a stress-free shopping experience,” said Takenori Motoda, vice president of Fast Retailing Co Ltd, the chain operator for Uniqlo.
Like Uniqlo Phatthanakan, the roadside store in Malaysia will share the same unique features and will be situated in a highly populated residential area where cars are used as a main means of transport, added Motoda.
No exact location or timeline have been given yet as the company is still in the midst of planning and is in talks with property and land owners.
When asked if brick and mortar stores are still relevant in this digital age especially in Malaysia where online shopping is on the rise — Uniqlo too, has a store online at uniqlo.com — Motoda said in-store shopping experience still matters as customers want to see, touch and feel the products before purchasing them.
“Our brick and mortar stores seamlessly connect with our online stores to provide a more complete service for our customers,” said Motoda.
“For instance, the online store has the Click & Collect feature, whereby customers can shop online and right away collect their purchases at a nearby Uniqlo store, so there’s no need to wait for delivery. We believe both are equally important and they complement each other.” According to Dawn Chow, PR & marketing manager of Uniqlo Malaysia, the Click & Collect service has been enjoying a slow but steady growth in Malaysia since it rolled out three months ago.
“While online shopping is growing surely, the sales at our physical stores remain high because it is evident that Malaysians still very much enjoy going out to shop in a physical store.
“Not only do we want to see, touch, feel and try out items, we also want them now and fast. We see a huge potential with a roadside store in Malaysia in the near future, to give a variation for local customers.
“Plus, Malaysia has among the highest rate of car ownership in the world, so the format will fit in our landscape,” said Chow.
Source: The Malay Mail Online