Fast Retailing Closing All Grameen Uniqlo Stores in Bangladesh

Uniqlo’s decade-old social business experiment in Bangladesh has come to a close.

By June 18, the Japanese retailer will be winding up its 10 remaining Grameen Uniqlo stores, most of them in the South Asian nation’s capital of Dhaka. At its peak, it operated 18 outlets, the latest of which it opened only in September.

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“In view of Bangladesh’s significant economic development in recent years, as well as changes to its business environment, we have determined that our company has fulfilled a certain role and has decided to conclude its business activities,” Uniqlo said in a statement on Wednesday.

The Fast Retailing-owned firm previously touted Grameen Uniqlo as the “only social business brand” in Bangladesh’s booming apparel sector. It operated under Uniqlo Social Business Bangladesh, a “wholly owned” Fast Retailing subsidiary that began in 2010 as a partnership between the LifeWear maker and Grameen Bank Group to tackle social issues such as poverty, health and education through retail. Stores selling Bangladesh-made clothes to Bangladeshis started popping up in 2013. In rural parts of the country, “Grameen ladies” would go door to door to sell everything from sweat-wicking polo shirts to traditional kameez shalwars to the poor at steep discounts. All profits went back into the business, which used them to subsidize sales, provide interest-free health and education loans, contribute to industrial development for factory workers or make charitable donations.

Uniqlo did all this, it said, with the “aim of improving the lives of the people of Bangladesh by providing clothing to meet the needs of local daily life and by creating opportunities for employment in safe environments.”

Fast Retailing said it remains committed to Bangladesh, where it works with some 40 factories and mills. In 2008, it opened a production office to help with textiles development. The nation is also part of the Helmut Lang and Theory owner’s Women’s Empowerment Program, which it launched in 2019 together with United Nations Women. Besides donating to the Asian University for Women to “foster female leaders in Asia,” Fast Retailing also conducts career training to boost women to leadership positions in the industry, it said.

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