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‘Physical stores remain important’ despite e-commerce boom, says Uniqlo

The retailer sees room to blend both the bricks-and-mortar model as well as e-commerce.

As Singaporeans adapt to a new normal this year brought about by the unprecedented changes of the Covid-19 pandemic, Japanese retailer Uniqlo tells The Drum how it has observed that they are pivoting towards essentials and increasingly prioritising comfort, value and quality.

This means it is imperative Uniqlo continues to meet its consumers’ needs with products at an affordable price, says Joyce Tan, the marketing director at Uniqlo Singapore.

Tan explains that the company’s LifeWear collection is aimed at new lifestyle needs, providing everyday clothing to cater to all occasions, be it telecommuting, indoor workout, lounging at home, or playtime for kids.

“We are committed to providing LifeWear and offering everyday essentials that are quality and timeless while making Uniqlo accessible to everyone. We are also sure to consider the needs of the local community to provide relevant offerings by putting together product ranges that meet specific local needs and evolving lifestyles, such as offering clothes for people working from home, people who are constantly outdoors, people who feel cold in air-conditioned environments, and so on,” she says.

“We are a global business, but we respect the culture and the environment of each community and neighborhood in which it operates. We strive to build stores with strong local connections and contribute to the community and economic development in the countries and regions we operate in. “

For example, Uniqlo has a ‘Spotlight Corner’ in our Orchard Central flagship store where it collaborates with various local businesses to display their works and the UTme! service where local artists are able to showcase their works in the form of customised t-shirt designs. The upcoming revamped Uniqlo ION store will feature a wall mural specially designed by local illustration, Mindflyer. There are plans to change out the art installation periodically to allow more artists to feature their works.

Uniqlo is also partnering platforms like Klook for its ‘Explore a Life Unordinary’ campaign, which aims to provide a boost to local businesses that have been hit hard by the pandemic.

The campaign aims to inspire Singaporeans to explore the various experiences their country has to offer. At the same time, it encourages Singaporeans to encounter what is familiar and commonplace in a different light, as these ordinary places transform into something special with unordinary experiences.

In support of the local tourism industry, Uniqlo collaborated with Klook and the Capitol Kempinski Hotel Singapore in November to provide staycation deals and packages at the hotel. Customers were also able to redeem a pair of Uniqlo’s Premium Loungewear during their stay to complete the experience.

The focus on supporting communities both in Singapore and around the world to provide relevant offerings to help better their lives has seen Uniqlo pitched in to help healthcare workers who are working at the frontline to fight the pandemic.

When Uniqlo launched its Airism masks in Singapore in August, it partnered food delivery platform Foodpanda to show its support for the food delivery frontliners and distribute masks to its full fleet of riders to keep them safe and comfortable as they work.

Uniqlo is also helping the foreign workers population in Singapore as the virus spread quickly in crowded dormitories for them. Uniqlo has donated clothing for 4,700 foreign workers admitted to Ng Teng Fong General Hospital; the Community Care Facility at the Singapore Expo, and unused HDB multi-storey carparks that have been converted into dormitories.

“This has been done through working with our production partners around the world to assist communities through clothing including Airism, Heattech, as well as protective clothing,” says Tan.

“In Singapore, we have donated 100,000 masks to medical facilities through the National Healthcare Group and more than 12,300 pieces of Airism innerwear to frontline workers earlier this year to help them keep safe, cool and comfortable when working under warm and humid conditions.”

Like other brands, the pandemic has also accelerated the move to e-commerce for Uniqlo, with consumers purchasing online. While Uniqlo has had a digital presence even before Covid-19, it is constantly looking out for ways to engage its customers via online platforms, Tan explains.

For example, Uniqlo participated in Singapore’s e-Great Singapore Sale this year again via the Uniqlo website and mobile application. It provided its customers with the resources they needed to ensure the clothes they buy are a good fit. This included a guide on its website to inform them on how to measure clothing and body dimensions.

However, Tan says physical stores remain as important as Uniqlo is continuing to work on its store expansions and refurbishment to provide a better shopping experience. This is even as like legacy retail stores like Robinsons call time on their business.

The retailer sees room to blend both the bricks-and-mortar model as well as e-commerce because it wants to offer differentiated experiences for its customers both online and offline.

“This is why we have introduced Uniqlo Town, where there are three unique experiences along Orchard Road and shoppers can now enjoy an engaging and hyper-local retail experience in-store, including being part of activities and showcases,” explains Tan.

“The concepts of these stores are tied strongly to our commitment to helping customers to make effortless sustainable choices, providing clothes that meet their evolving needs, and supporting the local communities.”

She adds: “On the e-commerce front, we continue to improve our efficiency and transform our distribution system to ensure swift delivery of online purchases. Our ambition is to create the world’s most advanced retail industry format that intelligently fuses online and physical store operations for our shoppers.”

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