Uniqlo has more stores in China than Japan
Uniqlo in Sanlitun, Beijing, China. /VCG

Uniqlo in Sanlitun, Beijing, China. /VCG

The number of Uniqlo stores in China has surpassed those in Japan, reaching 767 at the end of August compared to the 764 directly run stores back home, Nikkei reported on Saturday.

Uniqlo entered the Chinese market in 2002, starting in Shanghai. Its store network has nearly doubled in five years from 387 in August 2015.

The company saw growing reliance on the Chinese economy to bring the pandemic under control, as it has added seven locations per month on average since June to branch out into the country's regional cities.

Uniqlo's parent company Fast Retailing is also accelerating its push in China, trying to build a new business model integrating e-commerce with physical stores that can be exported back to Japan.

In the business year that ended August 2019, about 20 percent of Fast Retailing's sales in China were from online shoppers, double that in Japan.

"China is ahead in terms of e-commerce and payment systems," said Fast Retailing chief Tadashi Yanai. "If we can succeed in syncing e-commerce and existing stores, we can reach 2 trillion yen in sales for sure," he added.

Yanai told Nikkei that the number of stores in China can go for about 3,000 given the population of 1.3 billion, indicating further expansion plans.