Page last updated at 11:31 GMT, Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Uniqlo sales hit by shortage of winter clothes

Uniqlo's Oxford Street store
Uniqlo blames falling sales on a shortage of winter stock

Sales at Uniqlo, the casual-clothing chain, fell 7.2% in January after the company sold out of some popular items.

The Japanese company, owned by Fast Retailing, said there was a shortage of its Heattech winter range, made of heat trapping fabric.

T-shirts and leggings made of the material had nearly sold out in December, the company said.

January's sales fall was Uniqlo's first year-on-year decline in six months, and comes after strong trading in 2009.

Uniqlo has defied the retail slump as consumers snap up its relatively inexpensive merchandise, highlighted by strong same-store sales growth of more than 30% in September and October.

Anticipating strong demand, Uniqlo ordered 80% more Heattech garments for the 2009-10 winter than in the previous year, but the company still nearly ran out of stock in December, it said.

Uniqlo sold an estimated 50 million items of Heattech thermal wear in the run-up to Christmas, according to Fast Retailing spokeswoman Yukie Sakaguchi.

Fast Retailing's rivals in Japan, such as the country's largest department store operator, Isetan Mitsukoshi Holdings, have also been reporting lower sales for January.

Retailers are blaming the sales declines on a drop in consumers' spending power as wages in Japan continue to fall.

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