Uniqlo U-turns on staying open in Russia

The interior of a Uniqlo store in Russia
Uniqlo: one of 49 stores in Russia

Japanese clothing brand to suspend operations after initial resistance.

Uniqlo, the Japanese casual clothing brand, is to temporarily close its stores in Russia after abandoning its previous stance that it would remain open as Russians have a right to buy clothes.

Earlier this week Uniqlo owner Fast Retailing said it would keep operating its 49 stores in the country, in contrast to Western brands such as Zara and H&M.

It justified its stance with this statement by its president Tadashi Yanai: "There should never be war. Every country should oppose it. This time all of Europe clearly opposes the war and has shown its support for Ukraine. Any attempt to divide the world will, on the contrary, strengthen unity. Clothing is a necessity of life. The people of Russia have the same right to live as we do.”

However, Fast Retailing today said: “While continuing our Uniqlo business in Russia, it has become clear to us that we can no longer proceed due to a number of difficulties. Therefore, we have decided today to temporarily suspend our operations.”

The “difficulties” include “operational challenges and the worsening of the conflict situation”, it said.

The decision comes after Russian forces bombed a maternity hospital in the Ukrainian city yesterday, killing three people including one child, in what UK armed forces minister James Heappey today said was a war crime.

Uniqlo’s efforts to respond to the conflict have also included donating $10m and clothing through its global partnership with UNHCR.

A number of brands, including Unilever, McDonald's, Coca-Cola and Pepsi have halted some or all of their business activities in Russia in response to the Ukraine invasion.

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