Exciting news from Japan where two of the country’s leading retailers are joining forces to launch a new joint store concept. Clothing chain Uniqlo and Bic Camera, a leading specialist consumer electronics player, will open the first cleverly-named Bicqlo (see what they have done there) in Tokyo later this month. Located near the busy Shinjuku train station, the 4,000 sq m store will aim to cater for shoppers (including tourists) looking to shop for both fashion and electrical appliances – at the same time. As such, the two partners will work together to place complementary product ranges together and promotional space will also be shared. Early photos show a mannequin wearing female clothes and holding a vacuum cleaner. I’m not sure whether this example boosts the aspirational image of Uniqlo’s clothing (“wow, I would look so good vacuuming in that!”, but I suppose at least it’s practical.
You can certainly see the basic reasoning behind Uniqlo and Bic Camera’s move. Sharing space within a large, high traffic (and high rental) location could make financial sense. And there could be some slight product cross-over between some ranges -eg, MP3 players and fitness equipment jointly displayed with gym or active clothing. Or how about Uniqlo’s HeatTech clothing next to electrical heaters or blankets? But aside from a few examples like this, do shoppers really want to shop for both fashion and electronics in a single store? The difficulty is aligning two different brands and consumer needs. Shoppers looking to buy electronics will need to be convinced that service and expertise will still be available. And with price becoming so important in electronics, Uniqlo will have to work hard to make sure its products still remain aspirational. It will do no good at all if it finds its latest clothing ranges displayed in conjunction with heavily discounted kitchen appliances, for example.
It got me thinking, though, about what other retailers could potentially tie-up in a similar way and develop their own unique concepts. Probably the closest example to Bicqlo translated into the Western retail landscape would be The Gap hooking up with Best Buy or Dixons Retail. But how about HMV joining forces with H&M to create H&MV? Can’t see it catching on myself, but perhaps its something we will see more of in the coming years as retailers look to re-evaluate the physical space they have.