Tuesday, April 10, 2012

What the U.S. Can Learn from Uniqlo

Rich country, rising unemployment, sluggish growth, big debts. Sound familiar? Japan’s notorious “lost decade,” the long stretch of economic stagnation that followed its massive property bubble in the late 1980s, looms large in the American mindset today. A lot of people think we may be headed down the same path.

The parallels between what happened to Japan and what’s happening to the U.S. have inspired a flurry of teaching points on what not to do next. The latest come from Tadashi Yanai, the mastermind behind Uniqlo, the discount Japanese clothing brand whose stores have spread across the globe like wildfire at a time when Japan’s economy and many Japanese companies are staring into the abyss. In the latest McKinsey Quarterly, Yanai focuses on what still struggling Japan can learn from Uniqlo’s success. But a lot of those lessons can also be applied to the U.S. Here’s a sampling of what Yanai has to offer:

1. Don’t look down on developing countries

Japanese companies seem to have their eyes in the rearview mirror. They have become introspective. I think we should get back to something more like we were at the end of the war when Japan rose to prominence from a situation in which it had nothing. (It was during this period that Fast Retailing got started, in 1949.) Read more......

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