Monday, October 24, 2011

"Made for All" - our visit to the new Fifth Avenue NYC Uniqlo

Japan’s basic apparel category killer store Uniqlo opened its 89,000 square foot (bigger than a football field!) Fifth Avenue/53rd St. location (second of three planned New York City locations) on October 14, 2011. We had the opportunity visit this store during a short 20-hour jaunt to the Big Apple.
By nature of our flight’s arrival time into the city in the late evening, we had the good fortune of experiencing the store during an off period – about half hour before closing. The store was certainly less chaotic at this time during the day – we attempted to go the next evening as well but quickly exited the can-of-sardines environment.

From across the street, the store exudes an Apple Store-esque glass cubic glamour. Fully-functioning elevators are closed off to the public and instead display a mannequin couple, riding up and down in the front windows to the delight of passersby.

It’s easy to forget that you are in a clothing store– with the clean, stark open format, the store has the same look and as Narita airport, complete with three long escalators in the center of the store and a cool, soothing female voice over the loudspeaker welcoming you to Uniqlo and announcing what products are on each floor.

Uniqlo somehow attracted the only happy, helpful, and efficient employees on the island of Manhattan. Two Uniqlo jacket-clad greeters at the entrance welcome customers and offer a large basket – genuinely friendly and not at all pushy. (Note: the staff wins extra kudos for calmly and genuinely willing to spend quite a bit of time helping us dig through a huge pile of Uniqlo’s $9.90 opening special jeans to get our size – seemingly oblivious to the surrounding chaos!)

The store does a beautiful job of “layers” of communication on the merino cotton apparel and the brand’s new “Heat-Tech” line:
Large block letters catch the customer's eye by  indicating what material line the product is from - "100% Extra Fine Merino"

Second board gives information about the premium quality of the merino material.

Smaller sign as you look closer at the product -- indicates the style, and a more detailed description of the style.
Eye-catching hallway draws customer in

Boards on top of product racks educate and encourage shoppers to buy other products from the same line.

The store makes good use of brightly lit floor-to-ceiling LED screens to feature their products as well as Uniqlo brand ambassadors. The screens were not interactive, but this may have been deliberate, as shoppers seemed more intent on stuffing their bags with as much Uniqlo product as possible rather than admiring the surrounding décor.

Several walls are completely paneled with LED screens, giving shoppers styling ideas
The store is somewhat confusing in terms of layout, but there are maps on the walls and the aforementioned loudspeaker message. On the main floor, the layout is maze-like and designed for the quick-paced wanderer. There are specific areas on the mezzanine floor for people to sit, conveniently out of the way of shoppers – genius. 

Seating area for tired shoppers and shoppers' mates, conveniently out of the way.
Uniqlo’s impressive displays are essentially the apparel version of Whole Food’s produce section. The merchandise is neatly stacked, hung, and folded in wall shelving, displaying Uniqlo’s extensive range of color options in each style.

Category killing in basics - like basic t-shirts.

More category killing in basics.

Take one product/material and do it every color!

Checkout is stress-free single-line Whole Foods –style. Interesting to note: when checking out, staff members have a scripted response: “Your total is $X for X# of items.” – perhaps to emphasize how much bang you’re getting for your buck?

Overall, Uniqlo gives off a very clear message that certainly seemed to resonate with consumers – there was no rhyme or reason to the demographic in the store, and the melting pot of people epitomized Uniqlo’s tagline (which is currently plastered all over New York City public transit and billboards) “Made for All”.

It was certainly made for us, that’s for sure. We actually had to purchase another bag to haul back our Uniqlo treasures…

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