Jul 9, 2009
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Uniqlo owner Fast Retailing profit jumps, ups forecast

Jul 9, 2009

TOKYO, July 9 (Reuters) - Japan's Fast Retailing (9983.T) posted 28 percent growth in nine-month operating profit on Thursday 9 July, buoyed by robust sales at its Uniqlo casual clothing chain, and lifted its full-year forecast for the third time. The company represents one of the few bright spots among major domestic retailers, with Uniqlo attracting price-conscious shoppers amid Japan's worst recession since World War Two.

Uniqlo, Fast Retailing
Uniqlo 'Color Parka, Color Jeans' 2009

Earlier this month, Japan's top retailers Seven & I Holdings (3382.T) and Aeon Co Ltd (8267.T) posted steep falls in quarterly profit, hurt by a sharp sales decline in clothes and household items despite aggressive markdowns.

Fast Retailing, which runs about 770 Uniqlo stores at home and 70 overseas said its operating profit came to 97.2 billion yen ($1.04 billion) for the nine months ended in May.

Same-store sales at Uniqlo stores in Japan posted a hefty 15.4 percent growth during the three months ended in May, thanks to the popularity of its T-shirts and other summer items.

In addition to brisk sales at Uniqlo, the company has overhauled its cut-rate g.u. chain, marking prices down even further and tempting consumers with offerings such as 990 yen ($10.4) jeans, about a quarter of the price of those at Uniqlo.

The chain, viewed as Uniqlo's answer to Gap Inc's (GPS.N) Old Navy brand, has seen its sales soar since then.

For the full year through August, the company now expects operating profit to grow 23.4 percent from a year earlier to 108 billion yen, up from 101 billion yen in the previous forecast and in line with an average forecast of 108.8 billion yen in a poll of 20 analysts by Thomson Reuters.

Fast Retailing shares gained 20 percent in the 12 months to Wednesday 8 July, against an 18 percent decline in the Tokyo stock exchange's retail subindex.

On Thursday 9 July, its shares closed down 0.2 percent prior to the announcement. ($1=95.34 Yen) (Reporting by Taiga Uranaka; Editing by Elaine Lies)

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