TOKYO: Fast Retailing is to leverage the strength of its Uniqlo clothing brand in Japan and open hundreds of stores in emerging Asia.

Speaking to the AFP, Tadashi Yanai, Uniqlo's chief executive, said that the low-cost brand had "gigantic potential" in key markets such as China and Korea.

The company has targeted the opening of 100 stores in Asia over the 12 months to August 2012, taking its total global number of outlets to well over 1,000.

"We want to expand our stores to all the main cities in Asia," Yanai added. "Unfortunately, Japan is in a state deadlock due to the ageing population, the low birth rate and politics being in deadlock ... But when I look at Japan as a part of Asia, a member of the world, I feel excited about the gigantic potential."

In Japan, Uniqlo launched its largest-ever store, located in the high-end Tokyo district of Ginza, last week. Yanai suggested that the decision to open the new 12-storey outlet was part of the international expansion strategy.

"Opening a flagship store here is the first step to expand the business from here to the whole of Asia," he said. "This is Japan's largest gateway to the global market."

While the vast majority of stores are located in its home market of Japan, Uniqlo has already opened more than 60 outlets in Korea and 50 in China. It also has a presence in Malaysia, Taiwan and Thailand.

Part of the emerging Asia expansion will involve the opening of the firm's first outlet in the Philippines in June 2012.

Fast Retailing also indicated last year that it was considering taking Uniqlo to India.

The company has the stated aim of expanding the number of its global outlets to 4,000 by 2020. Of this total, around 2,000 stores are to be located in emerging Asia.

Data sourced from AFP/Economic Times/; additional content by Warc staff