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Uniqlo faces Twitter backlash for holding on to Russia profits

Japanese brand recently expanded its largest store in Taiwan

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A Uniqlo store in Shanghai.

A Uniqlo store in Shanghai. (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Japanese clothing brand Uniqlo is facing a backlash on social media after its CEO said Tuesday (March 8) it would not follow other fast-fashion retailers exiting the Russian market over the country’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Clothing is a necessity of life. The people of Russia have the same right to live as we do,” Tadashi Yanai said to justify his decision to keep the brand’s 50 stores in Russia open.

While other apparel firms like Zara and H&M have exited the market, Uniqlo’s parent company Fast Retailing has said it will give clothes to Ukrainians who have fled the conflict and donate US$10 million (NT$282.83 million) to the UN’s refugee agency, according to a Nikkei report.

Yet a number of netizens, including Ukrainian Ambassador to Japan Sergiy Korsunsky, have criticized the Japanese company on Twitter and begun circulating the hashtag #boycottUNIQLO, per Fortune.

“The more companies that withdraw from Russia, the better,” Korsunsky told Bloomberg. “Cutting business from Russia is not a loss, it’s an investment,” he added. “If you prove some sacrifice of profit for a period of time, you encourage Russia to become a normal member of nations, and you’ll get much more profit in the future.”

Uniqlo entered Russia in 2010, and the country is the brand’s largest market outside of Asia.

Uniqlo also entered the Taiwanese market that year. In October last year, the brand renovated its flagship store in Taipei Mingyao Department Store, expanding it by almost one third to 3,500 square meters across four floors.

The exodus of Western brands from Russia has not been mirrored to the same extent in Japan or other developed Asian economies, per Fortune.

Although Tokyo joined U.S.-led sanctions on Russia, so far Japan’s private sector has kept relatively quiet on the matter. Though Toyota and Honda said they are stopping shipments to Russia, they cited logistical issues rather than humanitarian concerns.

Taiwanese computer brands such as ASUS, Acer, and Gigabyte have also remained vague on their plans, with an anonymous employee of one of the affected companies saying companies worry that publicly announcing a pullout would offend Russia and cause them difficulties in resuming business there in the future.

Despite this regional variation, there are still several big name Western brands holding out against pressure from their home markets to exit Russia. A “List of 9 Staying Put” put out by Microsoft News Thursday (March 10) includes Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, Burger King, Uniqlo, Hilton, Marriott, Hyatt, Caterpillar, and Whirlpool.