Uniqlo’s Six-Phrase In-Store Strategy

The Japanese mega-retailer promotes a unique messaging science on the floors of its Soho shop.

Uniqlo, the Japanese clothing company that has become one of the fastest growing retailers in a tough economy, is on top of its game. With innovative advertising platforms and smart utilization of social media, the brand has increasingly taken notice, and acted upon, the conversational constructs of the consumer dialogue.

At its flagship store in Soho, New York (its lone American location) Uniqlo has taken its messaging strategy to the sales floor, developing a unique science to the way that its employees interact with customers.

In an extensive story from New York Magazine, the retailer explained its plans for expansion (stores in LA, Boston) and surpassing the leading global competition, Zara (the world’s largest clothing retailer), by way of a singular spoken mandate on its sales force.

“Every day, at every Uniqlo worldwide, customer advisers repeat what are known as “the six standard phrases,” which they are expected to use while on the floor. The advisers pair off, and repeat:

“Hello, my name is Uniqlo, how are you today?”

“Did you find everything you were looking for?”

“Let me know if you need anything. My name is Uniqlo.”

“Thank you for waiting.”

“Did you find everything you were looking for?”

“Good-bye, we hope to see you again soon.”

Each customer is expected to hear at least four of these phrases (of course, with the advisers’ own names) as they go about their shopping excursion. The second and fifth are repeated because they are required at two points—on the floor, and at checkout.”

The verbal tactics are only small piece of Uniqlo’s strategy. Physical design and aesthetic, too, are paramount.

“While he was working on the design, [Masamichi Katayama, who helped launch the Soho store] focused his thoughts by making a poster from a photo he had found of a store in London that had covered a five-story building with raincoats. And Uniqlo’s Soho store is a surprisingly literal extrapolation of that poster: The store is wallpapered with thousands of Uniqlo items stacked floor to ceiling, arranged in a rainbow of colors. ‘A lot of it is a bit of an illusion,’ says Kiersztan. ‘When you think of stacking up cashmere sweaters, maybe you have 65 colors, but you make it look like you have a thousand by repeating stacks. Or when you walk in, there’s the glass display—we call it the ‘fish tank’—with 36 spinning dummies, to give the consumer the feeling that there’s a lot to be found.’ When store managers noticed that the towers of jeans sagged at the top, cardboard-backed dummies were inserted on the highest rows.”

Uniqlo employees are tested regularly on these in-store action items and executions, even being offered incentives to maintain the official organizational mantra, as evidenced by a poster hanging in all managers’ offices: ALWAYS FOLLOW COMPANY DIRECTION. DO NOT WORK IN YOUR OWN WAY.

“Cashing out is a timed art at Uniqlo, too; advisers must complete every transaction in less than 60 seconds. The other week after work, Lauren Venatucci, a manager in the women’s department, ran a cash-out contest. Advisers competed to ring up clothes while properly deploying the six standard phrases. The prize was an iPod, and the winner clocked in at 40 seconds.”

While many question the ambition and adaptability to expand across the United States, the blueprint for Uniqlo’s style and sustainability are clearly headed in a new direction.

New York: Uniqlones

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