|People walk pass by a notice on the wall of a Uniqlo store in Gangnam, southern Seoul, explaining that the store will close on Aug. 31, 2020. / Yonhap|
By Kim Jae-heun
Japanese casual wear brand Uniqlo made its breakthrough here with a collaboration with Jil Sander, last year.
The "+J Collection" revealed in last fall came 11 years after the retailer first collaborated with the German fashion designer in 2009.
The first +J Collection created a sensation all over the world including Korea, where its biggest store in the country in Myeong-dong, Seoul, alone gathered 600 people before the opening.
In a matter of days the entire line sold out in Korea.
The casual wear brand sought this chance to rebound its sales after facing its worst record due to the boycott campaign on Japanese products two years ago.
In July 2019, Japan decided to put restrictions on certain exports to Korea after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of surviving South Korean victims of wartime forced labor who filed against Japanese firms.
This led many people to reject Japanese products and brewery companies, and Uniqlo was struck hardest.
Uniqlo also pointed to the COVID-19 pandemic and increasing number of online shopping options as the major cause of its sales' drop but it did not deny the fact that the tense relationship between Korea and Japan has had a considerable impact on its sales.
Since the company first recorded over 1 trillion won in sales in 2015, Uniqlo has been maintaining the same business performance for four consecutive years. But this rapidly dropped to record 974.9 billion won, which is a 30 percent drop from 2018 sales.
The drop in business led the company to close down 22 stores operating across the country.
FRL Korea, the operator of Uniqlo, has also laid off 1,129 employees in the last seven months. The number of employees is a 25.3 percent drop from the 3,340 employees that were registered to the national pension in late January.
The Japanese firm has fired nearly 100 workers every month since March. In June and July, particular, the number of employees at FRL Korea decreased sharply by 11.1 percent, with the firm laying off 417 people.
This is seen as a result of poor business performance following the COVID-19 pandemic.
Uniqlo's sister brand GU pulled out of its business here as of last August too. It has been less than two years since the brand entered the Korean market.
Here, its most successful collaboration with Jil Sander was good news for the Japanese retailer to attract young customers again.
"Our new fall collection with Jil Sander constitutes both womenswear and menswear. We hope to satisfy our global customers with the modernist style of clothing that promotes both minimalism and comfort," a Uniqlo official said last year.
Upon the release of the fall collection with Uniqlo, Jil Sander said, "My creativity comes from fitting and experimenting with fabrics and at the same time using a method of pushing it in a particular direction."