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27 April 2011

Research Colloquium:
The changing face of a Japanese casual wear company in Hong Kong

Ms Zhu Yi, Zoe

Date: 27 April 2011 (Wednesday)
Time: 4:00pm - 6:00pm
Venue: LG101 KK Leung Building

This research aims to provide an explanation of the changing process of a Japanese large-scale company in the fast fashion industry in Hong Kong. With the globalization of the world economy, numerous companies are trying to expand their business into overseas markets. Among various kinds of foreign companies, it seems that Japanese companies have been paid less attention to compared to their European counterparts. Uniqlo, “Unique Clothing Warehouse”, opened its first store in 1984 and its parent company, Fast Retailing, was ranked 1st in the national market and 4th in the world in terms of market capitalization. Uniqlo has expanded its business into foreign markets from the beginning of the 21st century. This research will mainly investigate how Hong Kong employees receive or treat the main principles of the company “CS (customer satisfaction)” and “Efficiency”, as well as the company’s moves towards globalization, which Uniqlo refers to as “Global One”, and which might cause conflict between standardization and localization. The field work has been done in a branch in Hong Kong, which plays a role as a significant human resource development center in the great China area. The store is smaller than the standard store and it is located in the East side of Kowloon Island where most of the customers are local residents. Among thirteen stores in Hong Kong, the total sales of the store were ranked eighth in March, 2011. Through eight months field work in the store, the research divides the development of the store into three phases mainly according to the change of store manager. This research concludes that although the role of store managers is significant in each phase, it seems that their work has been heavily influenced by the supervisors who are supposed to support them. In the first phase, since the majority of employees are part-time salespeople who merely stay for several months or even days, on-the-job training has not been emphasized, which affects the efficiency of their work. However, in the second phase, the new store manager, who was quite different from the previous one, pushed every employee to work as faster than ever did before. Although the store manager placed emphasis on the “Efficiency” part of Uniqlo’s principles, she did not try to improve “CS”. In the third phase, a Japanese store manager was sent as a trainer for the Hong Kong store managers. I conclude that his mission will be difficult to accomplish for three main reasons: firstly, his poor language skill makes it particularly difficult for him to build a trusting relationship with employees; secondly, since he only has three months to achieve results and does not have enough authority to change things in the store, his action does not have a great influence on local employees.

All students taking the Research Colloquium course must attend. Other staff and students are also welcome.

Japanese Studies HKU