Uniqlo founder has 'no concern' about China

Here's why Japan's richest man is betting on China
Here's why Japan's richest man is betting on China

Fears over China's economy have sent global investors into a panic, but they haven't raised the heart rate of Japan's richest man.

Tadashi Yanai, head of the major clothing chain Uniqlo, said he has "no concern whatsoever" about the impact of a potential slowdown. He's so confident that he plans to open 100 new stores in the country within a year, adding to the 380 Uniqlo already operates.

"This used to be production-centric gigantic market. From now on, it is a consumption-oriented gigantic market," he told CNN during an interview at Uniqlo's Shanghai flagship store.

Uniqlo's big bet on China comes as other retailers are rethinking their strategies in the world's second largest economy. After years of cashing in on rich Chinese shoppers, luxury brands like Prada and Gucci are suffering. Automakers Ford (F) and GM (GM) are reporting slower sales. For foreign brands, Chinese buyers no longer look like such a sure thing.

But in Yanai's eyes, Chinese customers are simply maturing. He believes they are developing a better eye for value, a shift that favors companies that sell affordable, staple products.

"Clothing is what everyone needs," he said. "No one is walking naked on the street."

Related: The unlikely company behind the Nikkei's dramatic rise

Yanai has a lot at stake. Uniqlo is counting on the Chinese market -- its second biggest -- to deliver speedy growth as other markets slow. He personally owns 20% of the shares in Japan-based Fast Retailing, Uniqlo's $40 billion parent.

The Japanese billionaire's thirst for global expansion has not always paid off. An early foray into Britain ended in retreat, and business in the U.S. is still lackluster.

There are no signs, so far, that those experiences have dampened Uniqlo's ambitions for China.

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