Uniqlo-owner Fast Retailing sees "absolutely" no impact from China slowdown: CEO

PHOTO: The Straits Times

SHANGHAI - Japanese apparel retailer Fast Retailing Co Ltd, the owner of Uniqlo clothing chain, is seeing "absolutely" no impact on its business from the economic slowdown in China, its chief executive said on Saturday.

Speaking to reporters in Shanghai, where he is visiting to mark the global launch of a new product line-up in collaboration with Walt Disney CO, Fast Retailing Chief Executive Tadashi Yanai said China still presented plenty of opportunities.

"It's changing from a manufacturing- and export-led economy to that of one lead by consumption. People's living standards will get better. Income will rise," he said.

"Luxury items may not sell all that well but we ... sell clothes that are made for all."

The Japanese company is expanding rapidly in China as it aims to become the world's biggest apparel retailer ahead of Zara-owner Inditex SA, Hennes & Mauritz AB (H&M) and Gap Inc by 2020.

Growth in the world's second biggest economy is expected to slow to its lowest pace in over 20 years in 2015 with sales growth in areas such as autos and luxury goods slowing markedly.

When asked about the impact of the slowdown on the firm's business, Yanai said: "Absolutely none." Yanai has said Uniqlo aims to have 1,000 stores in Greater China in about five years - more than its Japan total - and eventually as many as 3,000.

It had 442 in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan as of end-May.

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