Life On The Job: Store Operations Manager

Yuichi Ito, Store Operations Manager at UNIQLO (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd tells gradmalaysia.com readers what it's like to be in his shoes!
gradmalaysia_Image_Yuichi Ito Store Uniqlo_2017
Yuichi Ito
Store Operations Manager
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How were your university days like?

Coming from a single race country, I am always intrigued by the different cultures and international communication in a diversifying global society. Although what I studied does not truly relate to my career right now it has never deterred me from moving forward. What you studied should not be the limit to your career opportunities.

How did you find yourself in your current career?

My first interaction with Uniqlo is quite a unique story to be told. Like most graduates, I began searching for job upon graduation and a friend of mine invited me to join him for a recruitment talk conducted by a global company. The company representative shared on company's mission and vision, career opportunities, and goals they set to achieved by 2020. I was intrigued by the promising future, and, at Uniqlo, personal growth, responsibility and achievement are dependent on the effort and ability that you display.

Needless to say, my career path started with the Uniqlo Manager Candidate position where new graduates like me were equipped with the skills to manage a store with millions of dollars in sales. Wanting to broaden my horizon after five years as a Store Manager in Sales Operations, I moved to Japan Headquarter's Corporate Business Planning Team for two years and later went back to Sales Operations.

What encouraged me to return to where I first begun were the customers and the young energetic colleagues. Uniqlo's business is, and has always been, customer-driven, and customer-first. This is why we have grown to where we are today, and why we believe we will continue to grow even further in the future.

Tell us how a day in your job is like.

My work week is all about business ownership, from the smallest details to larger business plans. I start with going in to Uniqlo Malaysia's headquarter to settle my usual routine of reading and replying work emails, followed by meetings with my area managers.

Later, I will attend a review meeting with the division leaders on Malaysia's stores performance for the previous week and subsequently setting goals and strategising for the coming weeks. Conference call meeting with overseas counterpart, interviews, store visits are at times part of my day-to-day responsibilities. Occasionally, there will be a few business trips to Singapore and our headquarters in Japan.

What would you say are some of the highlights of your job?

Fast Retailing owns Uniqlo, GU, Theory, Comptoir des Contonniers, Princess tam tam and J Brand. After opening our first Uniqlo store in Japan in 1984, we built a chain of suburban roadside stores. In 1998, we began opening stores in urban locations and ran a fleece campaign that ignited a Uniqlo boom across Japan. Subsequently, we opened stores within prominent shopping malls, and also global flagship and hotspot stores in Ginza, Shinjuku and Osaka.

As an SPA (Specialty-store retailer of Private-label Apparel) controlling the entire clothes-making process from design to manufacture and retail, Uniqlo offer high quality casual wear at reasonable prices, and products such as HEATTECH and AIRrism that differentiate us from other companies.

Global markets are our key drivers of growth. The first Uniqlo International stores opened in the UK in 2001. Uniqlo International contributed greatly to company growth, with store numbers in Australia, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Korea, Malaysia, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, UK and the US. With the wide opportunities arising from the growth of Uniqlo International, it is a truly diverse career for those willing to take the risk.

What skills are required in your job?

What you want to accomplish may seem clear in your head, but if you explain it to someone else and are met with a blank expression, you know there is a problem. If this has been your experience, you may want to focus on improving your communication skills. Simple and concise is always better than complicated and confusing. If you cannot relate your vision to your team, you will not all be working towards the same goal.

Share with us some of your plans for the future.

Our Chairman, President and CEO (Mr Tadashi Yanai) have set ourselves a medium-term internal goal to expand the Fast Retailing Group's revenue to ¥5tril and operating profit to ¥1tril, and become the world's number one brand by fiscal 2020. To keep us firmly on track, we also have a three-year interim revenue goal of ¥250tril.

To help attain our three-year goal, we are looking to ensure our Global One and Zenin Keiei management principles are fully implemented across the group. These principles involve encouraging all staff to adopt the mindset of managers, and to seek the best available global methods in whatever they do. This has inspired me to contribute further to achieving the Fast Retailing dream and at the same time, to also assist Malaysia to achieve its Vision 2020.

What is your advice to graduates?

'Follow your passion' is one of the most common pieces of career wisdom. It is not right or wrong but graduates may want to challenge this conventional wisdom. People who end up loving their work, most of them did not follow their pre-existing passion. Instead, their passion for the work developed over time as they got better at what they did and took more control over their career.