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John Ryan

Too Many Stores?

How many stores is too many stores by one retailer in one city?

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HOW LOCAL IS LOCAL? Uniqlo, the Japanese price-conscious retailer of fast fashion basics, has opened a third store on London’s Oxford Street.

The two-floor, 14,000-square-foot outpost has all that you might expect of a store from this stable, with planked wooden flooring, dense merchandising throughout (but with a lot of room to move), and lighting that is about “heroing” the product, rather than being the same everywhere. All this and a brace of digital screens across both floors, aimed at helping to set the mood and make shopping easy, right up to the moment when a move is made to one of the self-checkout terminals, have become the hallmark of a Uniqlo store.

However, that is an 8-minute walk from another Uniqlo and a 15-minute (according to Google Maps) stroll from its third branch – all three on the same thoroughfare. Note that there are good-looking flagships from the same retailer at the nearby Covent Garden and Regent Street.

The inevitable question in all of this has to be: How many Uniqlos can a city, even as busy as central London, support before one branch begins to cannibalize the revenues of its nearby brothers/sisters? Some answers may be provided by considering just how far shoppers are prepared to walk (and that is the normal method of Oxford Street locomotion) when seeking out a particular retailer’s offer.

Based on Uniqlo’s impressive performance and its expansion generally, it would seem that it knows its market(s) and that consumers in central London must, therefore, display a distinct unwillingness to overdo things when trekking along a major shopping street.

“Think local, act global” is one of those clichéd retail mantras that might appear to have been abandoned long ago, yet Uniqlo demonstrates that it remains rather more than a throwaway phrase. Shoppers do act local.

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