In the first quarter Fast Retailing’s operating profit dropped. The owner of the Uniqlo chain was hurt by the Hong Kong protests in the quarter and also by a consumer boycott that affected sales and tipped it into losses in the important South Korean market from September to November. But on the upside, the US business improved while smaller and younger-focused GU brand saw operating profit rising 44 per cent.
New stores in Australia and India also boosted the group’s sales. Asia, and more specifically China, is hugely important to the growth of the Japanese company. And its Uniqlo brand has a major presence there with its product mix appealing both to consumers on a budget and more affluent shoppers looking both for well designed basics and its collaborations, such as the recent one with Marimekko.
Same store December sales for Uniqlo in Japan, including online, were down 5.3 per cent year-on-year, while total sales, again including online, decreased by 5.5 per cent. This was caused by persistently high temperatures from the middle of the month onwards that resulted in sluggish sales of cold weather clothing.
The year to August is now expected to see operating profit down five per cent.