Uniqlo Apparel Coming to a Vending Machine Near You

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Uniqlo vending machine
Photo credit: The Wall Street Journal via C Wagner/Uniqlo

Forgetting appropriate cold-weather gear for travel could soon be a passé problem now that Uniqlo’s serving up clothing in airport vending machines.

The fast fashion purveyor owned by Fast Retailing is exploring new avenues for making headway in the U.S. market without all the hassle of additional overhead. And if Best Buy’s success with airport vending is any indication (the company reportedly brought in millions in revenue with fewer than 200 machines), it just might work.

Fast Retailing will roll out 10 vending machines in airports and shopping malls near New York, Houston and Oakland, California, and a few other locations, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Uniqlo’s efforts to capture U.S. consumer attention haven’t panned out quite as planned, and the vending machines are expected to increase the store’s stateside presence at a lesser cost than it would take to establish and operate a physical store.

“We’re trying to understand where we can be more successful without making a big commitment,” Uniqlo U.S. marketing chief Marisol Tamaro told the Journal.

The “learning labs,” as Tamaro referred to them, will stock just two items: heat-retaining shorts and lightweight down jackets. Keeping the selection limited will mean more available sizes and colors. All vending machine purchases will be dispensed in boxes or cans and shoppers can return them to stores as with any other purchase.

The days of going big in real estate and flooding the market with stores are gone as retailers both look to scale back their footprints in response to an increasingly online-inclined market and dip a toe in the water in new markets before diving all the way in.

In studying its e-commerce sales trends and trying to understand its best play in the American market, Uniqlo found that some of its top-selling markets, like Texas, didn’t have any Uniqlo stores at all.

“They are coming across the product in some way, shape or form,” Tamaro told the Journal speaking of consumers. “It gave us the confidence that we don’t need to have a store in every city.”


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