JAPAN'S budget clothing chain Uniqlo will open its first-ever store in Spain this autumn, increasing its presence to 19 countries worldwide.
According to Fast Retailing, the company which owns the well-known cut-price brand, the flagship outlet in Spain will be based in Barcelona, although future branches elsewhere in the country may follow later.
The company has spent several years searching for a suitable premises for its début shop, with size and maximum visibility being the main priorities, and has finally plumped for a four-storey venue on the Catalunya city's main shopping precinct, the Passeig de Gràcia.
“I find this very exciting – I've been wanting to open a shop in Barcelona ever since I first visited the city in 1991 or 1992 with my family,” enthuses Fast Retailing chairman Tadashi Yanai (pictured).
“It's a very artistic, beautiful and open city.
“The truth is that we've delayed branching out into Spain for some time because of issues such as the language, or lack of direct flights.
“But we're very enthusiastic about setting up in the country that created Zara, which is such a successful brand.”
Fashion and business media are already referring to Uniqlo and Zara as direct rivals for the low-cost but quality clothing market, although Yanai insists Zara has been 'a role model' for his star brand.
Once the store in Barcelona is up and running, Fast Retailing will look to open several more Uniqlo shops in the city, and also in Madrid.
Fast Retailing aims to turn Spain into its sixth-largest European market, behind the UK, France, Belgium, Germany and Russia.
Ever since Uniqlo's first store opened in the western Japan city of Hiroshima in 1984, it has spread into 18 countries – 19 once the Barcelona outlet is ready to trade – with over 1,800 shops across the planet.
Fast Retailing also owns brands such as the up-market quality French classics label Comptoir des Cotonniers, as well as GU and Theory.
The third-largest fashion corporation on earth, it reported a turnover of US$17.31 billion (just under €16.3bn) last year, with only the made-in-Spain Inditex empire – which owns Zara – and the unbeatable Swedish high-street label Hennes & Mauritz (H&M) outdoing its results.