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Uniqlo struggles with currency, weather

Uniqlo, Asia’s largest apparel retailer, has delivered a disappointing set of results for the quarter to November 30.

While revenue rose 8.5 per cent year on year to ¥520.3 billion (US$4.44 billion), profit fell 16.9 per cent to ¥75.9 billion ($647.1 million). Considerable depreciation of the Japanese yen was the main factor in a ¥29.0 billion fall in pre-tax profits, the company said.

Uniqlo International sales also fell short of target in the first quarter, reporting a rise in revenue but a decline in profit (revenue: ¥196.9 billion (+17.2 per cent year on year), operating profit: ¥20.8 billion (-14.2 per cent)).

“Unseasonal warm winter weather around the globe adversely impacted same-store sales at Uniqlo Greater China (encompassing operations in mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan), Uniqlo South Korea and Uniqlo US in particular, resulting in a lower than expected first-quarter performance and declining profits in all three of these areas.

Meanwhile, Uniqlo Europe reported higher than forecast gains in both revenue and profit, and Uniqlo Southeast Asia and Oceania reported a steady operating profit, as expected.

New store openings proceeded as planned, with a net 66 stores opened during the first quarter, mainly in Greater China and Southeast Asia. As a result, the total number of Uniqlo International stores had expanded by 169 year on year to 864 stores as at November 30.

Uniqlo Japan fell short of expectations in the first quarter, declining in both revenue and profit Revenue was ¥230.9 billion (-0.7 per cent), operating profit ¥44.8 billion (-12.4 per cent).

“While online sales expanded 23.2 per cent year on year, same-store sales declined 2.3 per cent, resulting the fall in revenue,” the company said.

“In September and October, fall winter items such as cashmere sweaters, merino sweaters, gaucho pants and wide pants got off to a great start and sales proved strong, pushing same-stores sales higher as a result. However, the unexpected heatwave in November stifled demand for winter items, and led to a sharp drop in revenue.

“On the profit side, hefty discounting of winter items in November squeezed the first-quarter gross profit margin, while lower than-expected first-quarter sales inflated the selling, general and administrative expenses to revenue ratio.”

The number of directly run Uniqlo Japan stores, excluding 38 franchise outlets, totaled 806 stores at the end of November 2015. While that represents a net decrease of 18 stores year-on-year, 10 of these stores were converted from directly-run stores to new employee-franchise outlets.

The group reiterated its goal of becoming the globe’s largest apparel retailer.

“To this aim, we have focused our efforts on expanding Uniqlo’s global operations, boosting store numbers in each country where we operate, opening global flagship stores and large-format stores in major cities around the world, and offering exciting joint collections with well-known designers from around the world, such as Ines de la Fressange. This strategy is designed to both boost awareness and visibility of the Uniqlo brand and strengthen our global operational base. We are also actively promoting our GU brand by accelerating the opening of new stores in Japan and launching the label in the Chinese market.

“We believe the GU operation has reached a key turning point in its growth and development as a second pillar brand for the group,” the company concluded.

Uniqlo’s Global Brands division exceeded expectations in the first quarter by reporting a 17.4 per cent year on year gain in revenue to ¥91.8 billion, and a 29.7 per cent year on year gain in operating profit to ¥12.4 billion.

“Within the Global Brands segment, our low-priced GU fashion casualwear label reported significant rises in both revenue and profit that surpassed our initial forecasts. GU reported double-digit growth in same-store sales on the back of strong sales of heavily advertised campaign items such wide pants, baggy sweaters and knitted bottoms.

“Meanwhile, our Theory fashion brand and J Brand premium denim label both fell slightly short of target when they reported a decline in profits.”

The company’s France-based Comptoir des Cotonniers and Princesse tam.tam labels reported lower-than-expected sales and a decline in profit, after the November terrorist attacks in Paris forced some stores to close temporarily.

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