In the coming months Uniqlo will open in ten new locations – ten Uniqlo vending machines will be installed in major airports and malls in the US, stocked with its lightweight jackets and other basics.
The Uniqlo vending machines are six feet tall and its limited range of products are dispensed to customers in boxes and cans. If the item doesn’t quite work out, it can be returned in-store or online (via mail).
Uniqlo’s CEO, Tadashi Yanai, has numerous times expressed his ambition to overtake Zara as the world’s largest apparel retailer, and it has his sights set on dominating the US as part of that strategy.
The new Uniqlo vending machines in the US will supplement the brand’s 45 stores in the country and its online store, aimed at perhaps boosting its visibility, which was flagged by the retailer last year as a priority. While it has a presence in New York, it hasn’t quite penetrated outside of that in the US.
The vending machines, however, may present a conundrum for US consumers – one, there is nowhere to try on the items, and two, if it’s not right, they are stuck with the item in their travel bags for the time being, until they can go in-store or post it.
Still, self-serve retail is on the rise in the US and countries like Australia as well, where there is an increasing number of self-checkout and in-store pickup facilities popping up. It may only be a matter of time before we see other retailers installing their own vending machines scattered around top selling high-visibility locations.
Vending machines in the US and many parts of the world are traditionally associated with sales of snacks and drinks (with some airports stocking travel items like toothpaste, earbuds and makeup), however in Japan, where Uniqlo’s roots are, they are widely used to sell a vaster range of goods.
Uniqlo is owned by Japan’s Fast Retailing, and has close to 1,900 stores worldwide, including 12 in Australia as well as a strong e-commerce model, selling inexpensive casual wear for men, women and children. The Japanese apparel retailer already runs vending machines in other parts of the world.
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