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Uniqlo Aims For Bigger China Gains With New Disney Deal

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Uniqlo, the Japanese clothing retail known for its affordable basics, is doubling down on Disney.

The apparel seller started selling shirts depicting Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse in 2009. On Monday, Uniqlo announced a new partnership with Disney that will extend its collaboration with the entertainment conglomerate, a move that’s aimed at deepening the apparel company’s presence in China.

For the joint partnership, known as Magic for All, the companies will design apparel, accessories, and plush toys featuring popular characters from Star Wars, Pixar’s Toy Story, Marvel’s Avengers, and Disney’s Frozen.

Tadashi Yanai, founder of Uniqlo parent Fast Retailing, told The Wall Street Journal that he hopes the Disney collaboration will further boost sales in China, where growth is essential for Uniqlo. The clothing company has struggled in the United States of late, and while it has performed well in its home country of Japan, the nation’s shrinking, aging population have dimmed its long-term prospects there.

“Our Chinese business is trending very smoothly,” Yanai told the Journal. The company’s versatile mix-and-match clothing seems to resonate with young Chinese workers. The retailer already operates 370 stores in mainland China; it plans to add 100 more annually for the near future.

The company’s new partnership with Disney will be worldwide, but will have a special focus on China. Uniqlo’s largest store worldwide in Shanghai will dedicate an entire floor to the Disney merchandise.

“The Walt Disney Company prides itself on delivering magical experiences to fans of all ages; whether it’s at the movies, retail, our theme parks or at home,” Paul Candland, President, The Walt Disney Company Asia, said in a statement. “Uniqlo shares our passion for storytelling and we look forward to expanding our global collaboration creating unique experiences for fans to immerse themselves in the Disney, Marvel, Star Wars and Pixar brands.”

Uniqlo has maintained its optimism for the Chinese market despite criticism of labor practices at its supplier factories there and a recent scandal over a sex video allegedly recorded in a Beijing store fitting room.

Yanai told the Journal that the video was disgusting: “This is the last thing we would have anticipated happening in our store,” he said.

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