Uniqlo is offering two items via vending machines—heat-retaining shirts and lightweight down jackets—dispensed in boxes and cans to U.S. consumers.
The Japanese fashion brand installed a vending machine at Oakland Airport in California with nine more planned for airports and malls in Los Angeles, Houston and New York in the near future.
— ELLE Malaysia (@ELLEMalaysia) August 3, 2017
Uniqlo USA CEO Hiroshi Taki said the technology will bring “convenience to travellers looking for a warm jacket without the bulk, or a versatile undershirt.”
The push is U.S.-centric as the Asian brand aims to entice customers in a market where penetration has been slow and low from its 45 stores nationwide.
Airports and malls—high-traffic locations—were chosen to supplement in-store sales. The success of vending machines in Japan is indisputable, with one on nearly every street corner, but dispensing clothes instead of food or drink is a different proposition.
The six-foot-high vending machines sport digital displays so shoppers can choose the size and color of the two items, then just hit the Buy button and out pops a box or can. If you’re unhappy with your purchase, you can return it to a Uniqlo store or through the mail.
While Uniqlo is the largest clothier in Japan, cracking other markets has been elusive. Marisol Tamaro, CMO said the initiative is about “trying to understand where we can be more successful without making a big commitment.”
The two items being trialed, Heattech tops and UltraLight down jackets, are among Uniqlo’s biggest sellers and epitomize the brand’s persona of simple but highly functional clothes. The down jackets sell for $69.90 and Heattech tops for $14.90.
Stepping out-of-store is trending: Snapchat Spectacles, Instagram likes, and Best Buy products are all vend-able, and even though sales from machines won’t amount to much in dollars, but can deliver valuable insight on U.S. consumers—particularly in suburban areas, key to the brand’s growth and aspiration to become the world’s largest clothing retailer.
Currently, Uniqlo is the third largest, behind H&M and Zara, and is owned by Japan’s Fast Retailing, also owner of Helmut Lang and J Brand.
Back in 2007 when UNIQLO first hit the fashion radar, brandchannel noted the national bravura. “One brand that wears its national colors on its sleeve is UNIQLO, a fashion retailer that combines the back-to-basics approach of American Apparel, the competitive pricing of Old Navy, and the foreign edge of a Zara or H&M… It is refreshing when a Japanese brand discards discretion for an emboldened embrace of its culture in brand identity.”
UNIQLO (coined from “unique clothes”) continues to discard discretion and innovate with bravura.