Fast Retailing posts record Q1 profit on brisk overseas Uniqlo sales

Japan’s Fast Retailing Co Ltd raked in an all-time high profit in the first quarter, beating consensus estimate, buoyed by brisk business at its overseas Uniqlo clothing stores.

AFP/Fred Dufour

Fast Retailing has been pushing to expand overseas amid a patchy recovery in domestic consumer spending, in a bid to fulfil founder Tadashi Yanai’s ambition to overtake H&M and Zara parent Inditex as the world’s top apparel retailer. It is already Asia’s biggest.

Its operating profit came in at 113.9 billion yen ($1.02 billion) in the quarter ended November, versus 88.59 billion yen a year ago, topping a 106.8 billion yen Thomson Reuters Starmine SmartEstimate based on projections from 4 analysts.

Results were underpinned by the retailer’s Uniqlo business, famous for its HeatTech fabric clothing and ultra-lightweight down jackets, which saw its operating profit grow 54.7 percent abroad. Uniqlo earnings rose 18.6 percent at home.

Sales at overseas Uniqlo stores outstripped those at domestic stores for the first time.

The number of brick-and-mortar Uniqlo stores outside Japan has been growing steadily, with the company expanding into second- and third-tier Chinese cities with a target of hitting 1,000 stores by 2021 in that country from under 600 at end-2017.

The total number of domestic Uniqlo stores is forecast to be unchanged this year as the company focuses on improving profitability by reducing wastage through an overhaul of its distribution network and driving traffic to its online store.

At Fast Retailing’s low-cost chain GU, profit grew 31.8 percent. Profit at the global brands unit grew 10.4 percent.

Fast Retailing left its operating profit forecast unchanged at 200 billion yen for the year through August. ($1 = 111.8200 yen) 

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