Uniqlo owner posts 22% surge in 9-month operating profit, raises forecast

Uniqlo owner posts 22% surge in 9-month operating profit, raises forecast


Reuters API

The Japanese operator of apparel retailer Uniqlo


Fast Retailing

The results pointed to a powerful return to form in China, the biggest overseas Uniqlo segment by far, but also a challenging market at home, where the yen’s depreciation is eating into margins and consumers are highly resistant to price increases.

“Chinese consumer demand seems to be recovering strongly (after the Covid-19 crisis), as far as we can see,” chief financial officer Takeshi Okazaki said at an earnings briefing.

Business in China started to turn around in the tail end of the second quarter and accelerated in the third, when existing stores in the mainland saw a 40% increase in sales. Okazaki said the company expects record performance in the region for the second half of the year.

Fast Retailing’s operating profit in the three months through May surged 35% to 110.3 billion yen ($797 million), exceeding the 102.4 billion yen average of forecasts from seven analysts surveyed by Refinitiv.
The company raised its full-year profit forecast to 370 billion yen, also a new record, from 360 billion yen previously. Analysts had predicted 363 billion yen.

Fast Retailing’s shares have soared 30% so far this year, helping founder Tadashi Yanai

Fast Retailing is becoming the increasingly rare example of an overseas company doing well in China’s mid-market apparel market, where several other Western names such as Forever 21InditexGap

Among Uniqlo’s chief rivals in China is Nanjiren, which similarly sells thermal clothing and underwear.
While China languished under lengthy pandemic curbs over the past couple of years, Fast Retailing put more focus on its North American and European operations. Those regions continued to perform strongly in the third quarter, the company said.

Uniqlo had 61 locations in North America as of February, and is adding four stores in the U.S. and two in Canada this summer as part of a plan to reach 200 by 2027.

In Japan, sales improved for the quarter, but profits were lower than expected as the weaker yen drove up the cost of goods. Prices for some items in Japan will have to go up, but they will be limited, Okazaki said.

“In Japan, it’s still rather tough to raise prices,” he said.

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