Uniqlo Installs Vending Machines in the US

Japanese casual clothing chain operator Uniqlo Co. has been placing vending machines in airports and malls in U.S. cities, offering two of its most popular items for customers to choose from and purchase using a touch screen.

The company has installed five of the so-called “Uniqlo to go” machines since Aug. 2, including one at California’s Oakland International Airport. It plans to roll out such machines at five more locations in the near future.

I’m actually surprised it took this long. Uniqlo, being one of the most ubiquitous Japanese companies in the world right now, is in a position to popularize this uniquely Japanese retail model. Keeping the machines in stock might be tedious, compared to doing the same in their home market of Japan at least, but besides that, I don’t see much reason for this to not become successful.

We are looking forward to introducing a new and easier way of shopping,” said Hiroshi Taki, chief executive officer of Uniqlo USA LLC, adding the machines provide “convenience to travelers looking for a warm jacket without the bulk or a versatile undershirt, all with the push of a button.

It’s good that they’re not just stuffing any items of clothing in there – they could easily just transfer leftover stock from a nearby retail store, for example. They put in there travel-friendly and travel-appropriate apparel.

I was struck by the closing sentence:

The company has yet to achieve profitability in the country, but hopes the vending machines are a move in the right direction.

Uniqlo don’t exactly capture the zeitgeist of American fashion, don’t they? Regardless, basics have timeless appeal and necessity, and that might be enough to bank on in the long run.