DHAKA: Uniqlo, owned by Japan’s Fast Retailing, on Friday opened two stores in Bangladesh, a favourite low-cost sourcing hub for many international retailers.
The Japanese retailer, in a tie-up with Bangladesh’s Grameen Bank, founded by Nobel laureate Mohammad Yunus, is venturing into a $70 billion retail market untouched by global chains, where about 30 million people make up the middle-income bracket.
Uniqlo is investing $4.6 million in Bangladesh. The company describes the initiative with micro-lender Grameen as a “social business venture” on its website and plans to reinvest the profits to alleviate poverty in rural areas. “We want to deliver innovative designs and fashion to the middle class customers here and have plans to open more stores across several cities that will create more jobs,” said Yukihiro Nitta, chief executive officer of the joint venture.
On Friday, Nitta said he was nervous about the way the brand would perform in Bangladesh as they were the first to test the retail waters. Uniqlo will hold 99 per cent of Grameen Uniqlo and Grameen Healthcare Trust will hold the rest.
The venture’s smaller second outlet is in a residential middle-class suburb on Dhaka. A group of college students, who were curiously checking out the store from across the street earlier this week as final preparations were made for the opening, had never heard of the brand.
At 1,000 sq ft (90 sq metres), the Dhaka store is a far cry from Uniqlo’s large-format shops elsewhere and stocks mostly menswear as women in Bangladesh prefer to wear traditional clothes.
“The store looks good from the outside. I can shop here for Ramadan, but not always,” said Jamshed Robin, a 25-year-old political science student, looking at the price catalogue.