INTERVIEW-Uniqlo eyes mega Tokyo store, big step in expansion

Wed Mar 14, 2012 9:12am GMT

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* Fast Retailing to open world's biggest Uniqlo in posh Ginza

* Flagship format to aid in overseas expansion -CEO Yanai

* No change seen to annual profit forecast -CEO Yanai

(Adds Yanai comments, background)

By James Topham and Kei Okamura

TOKYO, March 14 (Reuters) - Fast Retailing Co (9983.T), Asia's largest apparel retailer, is looking to use its new Tokyo flagship Uniqlo outlet to redevelop its brand image in its biggest market as it expands across Asia, its top executive said on Wednesday.

It aims to open 200 to 300 new Uniqlo stores annually, most of them in Asia outside Japan, to build upon its massive Japan share to become the world's top apparel retailer by 2020.

"Currently there are 800 million people in developed countries' markets, and in 10 years the Asian market will be double that, so that is where we are focusing on opening stores," Chairman and Chief Executive Tadashi Yanai told Reuters in an interview.

The new flagship store, which will be the world's largest Uniqlo outlet with about 5,000 square metres of shopping space, will open on Friday and be located in Tokyo's posh Ginza ward, a favorite area for trendy shoppers and overseas tourists.

It will be the firm's first flagship outlet in Tokyo and its ninth overall globally.

PROFIT FORECASTS

Fast Retailing trimmed its operating profit projection in January by 3.7 percent to 130.5 billion yen ($1.58 billion) for its business year ending in August, after sluggish sales in its main Japan market sapped profits. That would be a 12.1 percent rise from the previous business year. [ID:nL3E8CC2B8]

"I don't anticipate changes to (the operating profit forecast)," Yanai said, adding that he would only say things were going as planned.

Fast Retailing is set to report results for its September-February first half next month.

Shares of Fast Retailing were up 1.1 percent in early afternoon trade, versus an 1.8 percent gain in the Tokyo benchmark Nikkei 225 .N225.

($1=82.67 yen)

(Editing by Neil Fullick)

((james.topham@thomsonreuters.com)(+813 6441 1858)(Reuters Messaging: james.topham.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net)) Keywords: FASTRETAILING/

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