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In pictures: opening of Uniqlo’s first store in Mumbai

By Simone Preuss


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The new Uniqlo store at Phoenix Market City Mumbai. Credits: FashionUnited

It is 10:15 and about 45 minutes to go to Uniqlo’s grand opening of the first store at Phoenix Market City in Mumbai, India. There are a few dozen people already queued up but less than the first hundred who have been promised a special Mumbai tote bag. Those waiting are welcomed by a lady with a microphone and assured that the opening is on time.

Rika Kondo, who arrived at 9:15 am, is the first in line: “I am happy, Uniqlo is Japan’s famous brand and I am looking forward to the opening,” says the Japanese when speaking to FashionUnited. She has been living in Mumbai for the last two years and is looking forward to have a piece of home in the city by the Arabian Sea. As a mother of two young children, she appreciates the good quality fabric of the brand’s babywear.

The crowd waiting to enter Mumbai’s first Uniqlo store on 6th October 2023. Credits: FashionUnited

Natasha from Mumbai is just two spots behind Rika. She has been shopping from the app for a year and once at a branch in Delhi but is excited to now have a physical store presence in Mumbai. “My friend works for Uniqlo so I've heard a lot and that’s how I got to know the brand,” she says. “The fabrics are amazing; it is a proper utility brand.”

To bide the last half an hour, those waiting are now asked to answer a few questions about Uniqlo - what its t-shirt lines are called, how many stores the brand has in India and the like. The crowd has now grown by a few more dozen people.

Anthony is a fashion YouTuber from Mumbai who has been following the brand on Instagram and got to know about it through his favourite fashion bloggers. “I am excited about this launch,” he says. Wearing a fleece jacket, he wants to check out the brand’s winter wear - fleece but also the ultra light down jackets, cargo pants and flannel shirts in particular.

Uniqlo staff members before the opening. Credits: FashionUnited

It is now a few minutes to opening and the brand executives and staff members get ready for the ribbon cutting. According to Japanese tradition, the first customer in line is asked to be part of it so Rika gets handed one of the scissors.

“Namaste. Main Uniqlo ke pehle store opening Mumbai me bahut excited hoon,” greets Uniqlo India CEO Tomohiko Sei the crowd in Hindi, expressing his excitement for the first store opening in Mumbai. The crowd, which has now grown to about 60 people, expresses their appreciation through cheering.

Getting ready to cut the ribbon. Credits: FashionUnited

After a few words more words of welcome and appreciation, the ribbon is cut and the store officially opened - at 10:58 am. For Mumbai, which prides itself on IST (Indian stretchable time) not being late is a new record. Must be the Japanese influence. Staff members take their places while customers make their way into the store in an orderly line.

Uniqlo India CFO Kenji Inoue (left) and CEO Tomohiko Sei greeting customers as they enter the first Mumbai store. Credits: FashionUnited

Annika is also a Mumbaikar who usually opts for Indian brands but has been buying from the brand online. “I first heard [about Uniqlo] through a friend who is based out of Singapore. She gifted me something and I fell in love with the product,” she states and mentions the soft fabric as a plus point. In Mumbai’s hot and humid climate, she likes those products specifically geared for it. Today, she has come prepared and checked out the products she likes online before finding them in the store and trying them on for size.

Inside, customers can be seen holding up clothes, touching the material or asking the eager sales staff questions - one even gets out a tape measure and checks the length of a pant leg for a customer.

Customers checking out Uniqlo clothing. Credits: FashionUnited

“We really want to make sure that customers have a good experience. They are in the center. It is not just about selling clothes,” explains Uniqlo India CFO Kenji Inoue who has come to join the sales staff on the floor. When asked by FashionUnited if that is unusual, he shakes his head. “Not in Japan,” and goes on to reveal that even CEO Sei works three days from the store. “It is important to see what works and what does not on site,” he says.

As if on cue, a lady with a pram asks Inoue about the menswear section, which is one floor below. When he has to negate the question if there is an elevator in store, he personally walks the customer not only to the elevators outside but accompanies her down, carrying her bags.

It is about 11:30 am and the first customers have made their way to the checkout counters. As the morning progresses, the line gets longer and being the first day, things take their time. Those used to the easy navigation of the e-commerce site show dissatisfaction with the delay but are reassured that this will be worked out in the future.

Credits: The babywear section. Credits: FashionUnited

All in all, a promising start to Uniqlo’s Mumbai venture. Pritesh who heard about the brand through social media wonders about the amount of winter clothes in the store. “That is based on the sales stats coming from Mumbai for our e-commerce site,” explains Nidhi Rastogi, marketing director of Uniqlo India. “Mumbaikars love to travel and buy a good amount of winter wear.”

Rastogi is happy with the turnout. In terms of the Delhi versus Mumbai launch, she remarks that the brand awareness wass not what it is now four years ago, so Delhi had more walk-ins who happened to stumble upon the brand whereas the crowd in Mumbai iss well aware and sought out the brand, even waiting for presence in the city.

Dania, Khushi and Talia, for instance, have come from a part of Mumbai that is further away specifically for the opening. They follow the brand’s Instagram page and were well informed of the launch. “I have been overseas and bought stuff from Uniqlo. I really like the quality and the fabric, the simplicity,” says Dania. It is the basics that the three have come to buy which they appreciate for their longevity. “Prices are a bit higher than elsewhere but it is worth it,” finds Talia. “It is a good investment,” agrees Khushi.

Credits: Uniqlo in Mumbai. Credits: FashionUnited

Now it remains to be seen if Mumbai was a good investment for Uniqlo and if the brand can continue to deliver.

The next store opening will be on 20th October at Oberoi Maill in Mumbai.

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