Uniqlo brings fashion back to the source in Bangladesh

Fri Jul 5, 2013 1:48am EDT
 
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By Nandita Bose and Ruma Paul

DHAKA (Reuters) - On a bustling Dhaka street full of buyers looking for deals on export rejects and designer fakes, a flight of stairs leads up to an anomaly in a country known for producing international clothing brands - a global high street fashion store.

Uniqlo, owned by Japan's Fast Retailing Co (9983.T: Quote), on Friday opened two stores in Bangladesh, a favourite low-cost sourcing hub for many international retailers but a country where, until now, they have not sold their clothes.

On the level below the brightly lit store, a crowd of about 150 people waited patiently for the larger of Uniqlo's two Dhaka stores to let in customers.

"Youngsters in Dhaka are hoping Uniqlo starts a trend and more brands follow," said a beaming Dipjon Mitra, a lecturer at a local university, who had queued since 7.30 a.m. to check the store out.

The Japanese retailer, in a tie-up with Bangladesh's Grameen Bank, founded by Nobel laureate Mohammad Yunus, is venturing into a $70 billion retail market untouched by global chains, where about 30 million people make up the middle-income bracket.

In April, more than 1,100 garment workers died in the collapse of a eight-story building in Bangladesh, putting pressure on international fashion brands to improve worker safety and livelihoods.

MIDDLE CLASS FOCUS

At 1,000 sq ft (90 sq meters), the Dhaka store is a far cry from Uniqlo's large-format shops elsewhere and stocks mostly menswear - women in Bangladesh, a largely Muslim nation, still prefer to wear traditional clothes.   Continued...

 
A woman checks her phone in front of a panel outside the flagship store of Japanese fashion house Uniqlo at Hong Kong's Causeway Bay shopping district May 9, 2013. REUTERS/Bobby Yip