Japanese retail giant Fast Retailing has disclosed that all of 49 Uniqlo stores in Russia will remain open – in contrast to its rivals who are closing stores in protest of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
President of Fast Retailing, Tadashi Yanai, told the press that the conflict should not “deprive people in Russia of clothing as it is a basic human need”.
“Clothing is a necessity of life. The people of Russia have the same right to live as we do,” he said.
His decision comes after rivals H&M, Inditex – the parent of Zara and a collection of other brands – and Estee Lauder shut up shop. Most luxury brands have ceased trading, leaving empty stores, while Asos, AppleIkea and Nike have all suspended or closed various consumer-facing services.
Uniqlo’s decision came after the company announced last Friday that it would donate US$10 million together with 200,000 clothing items to The UN Refugee Agency in response to the humanitarian emergency in Ukraine. The donation will then be used for urgent assistance as shelter, psychosocial support and core relief items to affected populations in Ukraine and neighbouring countries.
“There should never be war. Everyone should oppose it,” Yanai said. “This time, all of Europe clearly opposes the war and has shown its support for Ukraine. Any attempt to divide the world will, on the contrary, strengthen unity.”
The company’s decision not to close its stores in Russia has sparked controversy, especially when a number of international brands have been suspending operations in the country.
The hashtag #boycottUniqlo has been shared on Twitter with people saying they would stop buying Uniqlo products. Other brands staying put in Russia, at least for now, including McDonald’s and Pepsi, have also faced calls for consumer boycotts.