Hawaii Market Entry for Resident and Visitor Markets

UNIQLO

Situation

UNIQLO, the popular global brand from Japan, selected PacRim Marketing Group for its 
Hawaii launch and phased store opening at Ala Moana Center.
 

Challenge

International retail giant UNIQLO had been seeking entry into the Hawaii market for several years before signing a lease for a flagship location occupying two levels of Ala Moana Center’s Ewa Wing.  However, UNIQLO’s initial plans for a spectacular market entry in 2018 were hampered by significant construction and permitting delays. UNIQLO made the decision to begin retailing in Hawaii with a temporary “Pop-up” location on the third level of Ala Moana Center. The small pop-up opened on June 1 with the main store grand opening scheduled for September 1.

Further construction and installation issues would delay the flagship opening to early 2019. However, not wanting to miss the fall back-to-school shopping demand and the holiday season, UNIQLO created a plan to open a portion of the new store while construction was in progress. On September 28 UNIQLO’s upper level opened for business. The third and final phase, including a grand opening celebration, was pushed to an undetermined time when the entire store would be complete. This required PacRim Marketing Group to activate a media relations plan for a newsworthy series of three store opening events to sustain media interest and coverage over the course of a year. 

Action

While many people around the world know and love the UNIQLO brand, research determined that there were many Hawaii residents and media quite unfamiliar with the store and its offerings. This necessitated a media relations strategy that included a series of meetings/deskside briefings with key reporters and editorial teams. The market entry announcement and media desksides generated significant coverage, including features that showcased the brand and its products.  

This was followed by two preview events at the Pop-up – one for media (including social media influencers) and the other for community partners. During the event guests were able to preview the merchandise, meet with executive management, view “Hawaii exclusives” and select the UT (UNIQLO Tee) of their choice as a gift.

The resulting buzz and media coverage generated 91 clips, more than 70 million impressions and tremendous interest from the Hawaii resident and visitor markets. There were more than 300 people waiting in line before the Pop-up store opened on June 1. 

PacRim continued to generate media coverage for subsequent product launches, and sales were ahead of projections by double digits.  

The challenge was to sustain media interest and generate coverage throughout the summer for the second phase: the opening of the main store’s 2nd level. A collaboration with Pow!Wow! Hawaii and storytelling about local families generated coverage, as did the launch of a “Hawaii Exclusive” line of Aloha wear during the September 27 media preview and September 28 soft opening, which again generated substantial local interest.

The first customer arrived at 5:30 a.m. There were 142 people in waiting in line before opening and 200 people in first 15 minutes. The store saw 502 entries in the first hour of shopping and again exceeded projections. 

The UNIQLO Ala Moana flagship was complete when the first level opened on January 17, 2019. PacRim organized a media and VIP event, complete with a Q&A session with UNIQLO Hawaii Manager Yuya Tanahashi and kagami wari (sake barrel) breaking ceremony. Guests were offered store tours and given an exclusive gift with purchase, UNIQLO branded beach slippers.

The grand opening for the public took place the following day, featuring a taiko drum performance and a ribbon cutting ceremony. Coverage was extensive in both English- and Japanese-language media. 

Results

All three events resulted in a considerable amount of media coverage in English, Japanese, Chinese and Korean, with multiple stories from Hawaii’s limited number of outlets. 

During the 14-month engagement, PacRim Marketing Group secured 527 editorial articles, earning more than $2 million in advertising value equivalency, while sustaining appropriate consumer interest and driving traffic to the Ala Moana Center locations.