June 17, 2014 / 9:42 AM / in 3 years

Fast Retailing's GU aims to enter Europe, U.S. in several years

TOKYO (Reuters) - Fast Retailing Co Ltd’s fast-fashion GU brand aims to accelerate its overseas expansion, first with a launch in Hong Kong, South Korea and Southeast Asia from next year and then in Western markets within several years, the brand’s chief executive said.

GU, the low-priced cousin of the group’s better-known Uniqlo brand, has over 270 stores in Japan but just one overseas so far, in Shanghai, that opened last September. Two more are scheduled to launch in Taiwan this autumn.

“We’ll expand in Asia first, starting next year, and if all goes well, we plan to enter Europe and the United States within several years,” GU’s chief executive, Osamu Yunoki, told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday.

Yunoki said the prerequisite for braving the cut-throat Western market was to ensure that GU’s brand identity was established and the business was profitable in the non-Japanese Asian markets.

GU currently accounts for just 7 percent of revenue at Fast Retailing, which also owns Western brands such as Theory and Comptoir des Cotonniers. But its growth is increasingly vital for the group’s goal of quintupling annual sales to 5 trillion yen ($49 billion) by 2020 to overtake Inditex’s Zara, Hennes & Mauritz (H&M) and Gap as the world’s top apparel maker.

Yunoki also said that he wanted to eventually double the number of stores in Japan.

($1 = 102.0500 Japanese Yen)

Reporting by Chang-Ran Kim and Ritsuko Shimizu; Editing by Chris Gallagher

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