Cash in, clothes out: Uniqlo to sell clothes via vending machines in the U.S.

Updated 2017-08-04 16:05:30 CGTN

It seems like every business is trying to grab a bite of the self-serving sales technology nowadays. From cashier-less stores to car vending machines, you might think you have seen it all, but the Japanese fashion retailer Uniqlo is ready to wow you with its clothes selling innovation.

The company set up its first Uniqlo To Go machine, a clothes vending machine, at Oakland International Airport in the U.S. state of California on Wednesday, and is rolling out nine more such machines across the country in the next two months.

Marisol Tamaro, the company's U.S. marketing chief, told the Wall Street Journal the operation of one machine will be much cheaper than an actual store.

Like many other Japanese clothing and home improvement brands, Uniqlo is big on making packable clothing items that can be easily stored away. The clothes dispensed by the machines come in boxes or canisters and take little space in one's luggage.

The machines will carry clothes in a variety of colors and styles for men and women, updating clothing items according to local seasons. It would most likely benefit those who forget to pack specific clothes or need an extra layer of protection while traveling.

The downside of this experience is that people cannot try on the clothes before the payment. Uniqlo thought about that prior to the installation of the machines, and is allowing customers to return the clothes to stores or by mail.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the machines will function more like an experiment to help the Japanese company understand their Western customers across the Pacific Ocean a little better. Lessons have been learned as the brand was not able to find its niche and keep up with its ambitious plan in the US market. Upon entering the US in 2006, Uniqlo planned on opening up 200 locations by 2020, but has so far opened only 45.

Apart from being an experiment, the machines will possibly generate extra profits and promote Uniqlo too.

Many businesses have set up vending machines at airports in the US, utilizing the similar concept of kiosks in shopping malls and candy bars by grocery checkouts. Benefit Cosmetics and many other US makeup brands have installed machines to sell that forgotten concealer or lip gloss to travelers. Benefit also utilized the machines as advertisement billboards and set up social campaigns accordingly. U.S. electronics seller Best Buy has vending machines across the country's airports selling earbuds and cables. The machines are worth "tens of millions of dollars annually" in sales, according to a statement by Best Buy's attorney.

The confirmed location of the next few Uniqlo To Go machines including Hollywood & Highland Center in Los Angeles (Aug. 10), Houston Airport (Aug. 17), and Queens Center in New York (Aug. 22). Whether Uniqlo will bring the vending machines to the Asian market and its home country wove with vending machines is yet to be known.

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