Uniqlo, owned by Japan’s Fast Retailing Co., is opening two stores in Bangladesh, a favorite low-cost sourcing hub for many international retailers but a country where, until now, they have not sold their clothes.
The Japanese retailer, in a tie-up with Bangladesh’s Grameen Bank, founded by Nobel laureate Mohammad Yunus, has dared to venture into a $70 billion retail market untouched by global chains, where about 30 million people make up the middle-income bracket.
In April, more than 1,100 garment workers died in the collapse of a eight-story building in Bangladesh, putting pressure on international fashion brands to improve worker safety and livelihoods.
Uniqlo, on its website, says its T-shirts cost 20-30 percent more than those sold in the local market, and says it is banking that customers will pay a little more for the higher quality.
“We’re not selling Uniqlo products, we’re going to be selling Grameen Uniqlo which is more geared to the local market, for between about 200 and 1,000 yen ($2-$10),” said Naoto Miyazawa, a Fast Retailing spokesman in Tokyo.
Uniqlo is investing $4.6 million in Bangladesh. The company describes the initiative with micro-lender Grameen as a “social business venture” on its website and plans to reinvest the profits to alleviate poverty in rural areas.