Though I first noticed articles about it back in November of last year, I still haven't found my way into the new Uniqlo store in NYC (granted I'm not exactly in the target demographic). But over at the Curious Shopper, Sara (who is), gives it a great going-over. She suggests that the retailer's difficulties moving out of its home market in Japan have been at least in part based on cultural differences:
Uniqlo has been challenged to translate its retail offering into other cultures. A first attempt at the UK market failed when big, splashy store openings were met with confusion. Now, Uniqlo is focused on bridging the culture gap, by understanding the mind of the fickle US consumer, while also maintaining a subtly Japanese aesthetic. They've set some lofty goals with that one.Sara also makes an excellent point about the use of repeating items/images as part of a merchandising strategy. Repetition is one of those basic Psych 101 principles that ties in to everything from short-term memory to pattern recognition, but we still see limited use of it in-store. While I could see a problem at a supermarket or big-box retailer, where trying to create repeating instances of 50,000 different brands might become a bit maddening, it seems like a natural fit for private label retail.
When I visited the store, I had a slightly different observation. For me it was less of an American-Japanese gap they needed to bridge, and more of an Old Japan-New Japan gap that needed balancing. I saw spare Japanese discipline coupled with hip Japanese pop culture. The interplay between modern and traditional was fascinating, if not entirely cohesive. Most interestingly, the traditional was actually more in tune with the trends of American retail.
Tags: Uniqlo, repetition, merchandising, in-store marketing