The fast rise of Japanese retailer Uniqlo

(CBS News) We're going shopping with Serena Altschul:

A previous version of this story was broadcast on March 24, 2013.

"Hello! How are you today? My name is Uniqlo! Let me know if you need any assistance. Thank you for waiting!

It's 9:30 a.m. in New York City, and employees are getting ready for another day at Uniqlo.

Uniqlo managers psych up their employees for the workday. And remember, smile!
CBS News
If you've never heard of Uniqlo before, it's the fourth largest fashion retailer in the world, with a reputation for design and Japanese service,

There are only seven stores in the U.S. But the Tokyo-based company wants 200 here by the end of the decade.

It's all part of what you might say is Uniqlo's plan to take over the world.

Yasunobu Kyogoku is Uniqlo USA's COO, one of the executives responsible for making that happen.

"We as a company are seeking to achieve $50 billion in sales by the year 2020, $10 billion of which are supposed to be here in the United States," Kyogoku said.

"So that would make you the number one apparel retailer in the world," said Altschul.

"Correct. That's our goal."

He showed Altschul around Uniqlo's San Francisco store, which feels a little more like an art gallery than a clothing store.

Altschul tried on a jacket in front of a "magic mirror."

"Rather than trying on 12 different colors of a particular item, for example, we can touch this LCD screen and rather instantaneously change colors," Kyogoku demonstrated.

Serena Altschul tries on a jacket in front of Uniqlo's "magic mirror" - actually a half-mirror/LCD screen that changes the color of whatever you're wearing.
CBS News

Just one example of how shopping here isn't what you'd expect.

"What Uniqlo does is it says, 'We'll give you a T-shirt for $4.95, and we'll make you feel the same thing you'd feel if you were going into a designer store and buying a $400 garment," said Simon Collins, the dean of fashion at Parsons, the New School for Design. He's a big fan of Uniqlo -- but he wasn't always.

In the beginning, Collins said, he didn't like it: "I found the volume of colors to be slightly oppressive."

But after a few more visits, he noticed something . . .

"They care about how the staff look," Collins told Altschul. "They care about the experience of dealing with the staff and purchasing the garment. They care about how the store looks. And you feel that."

Comments

CBSN Live

pop-out
Live Video

Follow Us

Watch CBSN Live

Watch CBS News anytime, anywhere with the new 24/7 digital news network. Stream CBSN live or on demand for FREE on your TV, computer, tablet, or smartphone.

On Twitter