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Undeterred by the ongoing economic gloom and increasing competition in Japan's clothing sector, two foreign-owned chains are expanding their presence here by opening their first stores in western Japan this weekend.


 
 
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TOKYO – Hennes & Mauritz (H&M), which drew long lines with its first Japan store, is hoping to repeat that success with its second shop opening Saturday with collaborative designs from fashion icon Rei Kawakubo. Swedish clothing retail chain H&M, which operates 1,700 shops in 32 markets, used to be little known in Japan. All that's changed after its arrival two months ago in Tokyo's Ginza. Queues of bargain-hunting shoppers snaked around for blocks, estimated by H&M at about 8,000 people a day. The lines, although significantly shorter, are still there — two months later.

The response was so strong that H&M — Europe's No. 2 clothing chain — scrambled to fly in employee help. Some customers were disappointed to have waited hours only to find nothing in their size, company official Nils Vinge said Thursday.

"Sales in Japan have been overwhelming," Nils Vinge (H&M)