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Uniqlo profits hit hard by boycott in South Korea

By
Nam Gyeong-sik, UPI News Korea
Shoppers read a signboard, which notes the Uniqlo shop in Seoul will shut down. Photo by Moon Jae-won/UPI News Korea
Shoppers read a signboard, which notes the Uniqlo shop in Seoul will shut down. Photo by Moon Jae-won/UPI News Korea

SEOUL, Dec. 31 (UPI) -- Japanese clothing brand Uniqlo saw its profit drop sharply in South Korea this year due to the boycott campaign against Japanese products, which started this summer.

In its audit report for the latest fiscal year from September 2018 through August 2019, FRL Korea, which operates Uniqlo in Korea, noted its sales edged up 0.3 percent to $1.19 billion, while its operating profit plunged 14.9 percent to $203 million year-on-year.

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FRL Korea chalked up robust growth through last year, but its performance seems to be hit hard in 2019 by the boycott.

Amid protracted diplomatic conflicts in July, Tokyo announced its intention to impose curbs on exports to Seoul of high-tech materials used to make semiconductors, South Korea's No. 1 export item.

The move triggered a nationwide boycott against Japanese products and services. Uniqlo became one of the main targets after its CFO said the boycott "will not last long."

Uniqlo apologized, but enraged consumers have continued the boycott.

As a result, the brand's income was widely expected to contract by a big margin.

The Financial Supervisory Service examined payments by eight South Korean credit card companies at Uniqlo stores and found sales plummeted 70 percent during the last week of July.

FRL Korea did not disclose detailed monthly data, but observers speculated the firm could've suffered a deficit of more than $17 million over July and August.

The company released its annual report in late December, about a month later than usual. FRL Korea attributed the delay to the belated selection of its auditor.

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