The sleek business of fast fashion Uniqlo

If you understand the evolutionary process of Unitech's Heattech technology, you can almost know that this market is not as simple as it looks.

Uniqlo is a "technology control."

There is a reason for this. Heattech, its warm clothing line, has been around for 10 years and is still evolving so far. According to statistics from Uniqlo, as of 2011, Heattech has sold 300 million units globally, and there were 100 million units sold in the whole year last year.

This technology has created a new market for clothing that is “light and warm”. Aeon, West Friends Group and other companies have also begun to launch similar products.

If you understand the evolutionary process of Unitech's Heattech technology, you can almost know that this market is not as simple as it looks.

In Japan, people call their feet cold chills "Hiesyo," and Chinese people call it cold. Compared to men, Japanese women have a higher proportion of sick. In autumn and winter, there are not only a few people who have packed themselves, but also bring about the inconvenience of bloated appearance and actions.

Initially, at the Uniqlo store in Japan, shopkeepers took the initiative to ask customers about various opinions about their products, then collected them at the customer center and compiled a monthly report. "Long-term monthly reports for products that want to keep warm and thin are mentioned repeatedly, and this opinion caught the attention of the R&D department.

Before and after 1999, 100% of Cotton Underwear was the mainstream in Japan and even in the entire Asian market, but it had the disadvantages of poor sweat absorption and fairly general warmth. Uniqlo's R&D team has a bold idea to use the synthetic fiber that has never been noticed in the intimate apparel market to weave clothes and redefine winter fashion.

The risk is to experiment with new technologies in the underappreciated lingerie market. There was another purpose in the UNIQU plan at that time. Because if you want to compete on costs, you certainly cannot compete with those companies from Korea and Taiwan.

As a provider of UNIQLO down apparel fiber raw materials, Toray started an initial cooperation with Uniqlo. At least on one big issue, the two parties reached a consensus: Increasing the value-added of products will be an opportunity for Uniqlo to break out of the market. For Toray, if we can combine the entire product, not just the raw materials, we can further consolidate the relationship with Uniqlo. The first product jointly developed by both parties is a sweater.

With the deepening of understanding, both parties have conducted low-key research and development of various new materials and products. Later this mysterious R&D team was named "Next Generation Raw Material Development Team". The team of Uniqlo and Toray employees mainly develops new types of clothing materials. In addition to the Heattech warm products, the successful commercialized products include SILKY DRY men's functional underwear and ULTRA LIGHT DOWN light down jacket.

“UNIQLO is keen on research and development because UNIQLO sells everyday clothes in addition to other fashion brands, as well as other fashion brands. Applying these technologies to these everyday clothes can achieve differentiation and added value.” (China) Trading Co., Ltd. Marketing Director Hideo Shimashima told China Business Weekly.

Heattech is the Uniqlo R&D since 2002. They tried their best on fiber, and the first product contained three fiber components. First of all, the natural fiber cotton is made of macaroni-shaped hollow cotton to isolate the air from heat and heat, and then the spandex with high elasticity is added to enhance the comfort, and the polyester fiber is mixed to achieve the quick drying function.

However, the first product is not mature, its softness and water absorption are quite general, Uniqlo believes that it does not meet the standard of women's warm clothing, and only after two years did women's Heattech products be launched.

Heattech's R&D process is not easy. Because of the synthetic fibers, the coloring properties of different materials are not uniform, and at the same time, coloring will inevitably occur due to the inconsistencies in the absorption of color. It has become the most thorny issue.

In order to solve this problem, Uniqlo dispatched a technical team named "Carpenter" and went to the factory every week to improve with Toray's technical staff. Four years later, in 2006, they solved the problem. For a full year and a half, their main job is to make this technology stable.

That is, in this year, Uniqlo and Dongli signed a strategic cooperation agreement. In addition to the formal formation of the "Next Generation Raw Material Development Team", Toray will also send class-level staff to Uniqlo to cooperate in the development of the plan and production.

"It's like a company is operating." Uniqlo production minister said in an interview.

In 2006, Heattech's annual sales reached 12 million pieces, almost three times the previous year.

Tomi Koichi, short fiber division manager of Toray Staple Fibers Division, is also a member of Toshiba's Global Operation. He brings Toray's sales team and members of the technical team to the Uniqlo meeting every week. The GO promotion room is also Become a special force corresponding to Uniqlo.

Heattech products are still improving. In the current product, the main fiber used has been changed from the original 3 to 4: viscose fiber can absorb the body's water vapor and heat; acrylic replaces the original hollow cotton, it can isolate a lot of air layer, make the body The heat emitted will not escape; spandex is highly flexible and comfortable to wear; in the end, polyester fibers absorb moisture quickly and dry.

"Suck and let go" is a newly added feature. If there is excess moisture in the garment, the product will absorb it and put it outside the body.

The role of Heattech in the expansion of Uniqlo's market is obvious to all, and Toray has also benefited from it. Throughout the fiscal year of 2011, Toray’s synthetic fiber production was only ranked tenth in the world, but the sales it brought were the world’s largest.

However, the light and warm thermal underwear market that was first cultivated by Uniqlo has begun to face numerous competitors. Aeon Group and Dongyangfang Group, which specializes in fabrics, and other businesses, jointly developed the “Topvalu Heat Fact” series, which will be sold at 1,300 Aeon shops across Japan, expanding the variety of products to 1200; Eco Heat, 7andi of the West Friends Group Body Heater, a retail group, is also expanding channels and products.

A comprehensive and objective evaluation has not yet appeared for these thin and light thermal underwears that have emerged. Uniqlo hopes to use its more comprehensive product line and overseas market expansion as soon as possible to preserve its advantages.

In the new Heattech product line in 2012, the product line has been expanded to baby clothing, with 827 designs, which is twice the number in 2011. At present, only Uniqlo sells thin and warm thermal underwear outside of Japan.

According to Uniqlo's plan, the company's overseas sales will increase from 10% to 15%. The company expects that if it does not increase its overseas share as soon as possible, it may face the risk of being overtaken by competitors in overseas markets.

After all, compared with Japan, China and other markets are still just “emerging markets” for thin and warm products. Everyone will have the opportunity to squeeze in and get benefits.

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