Chinese online auction and e-commerce site Taobao.com has inked a deal to launch the online services for Japan's Uniqlo, a casual apparel retailer.

The partnership will serve as an important step for the Japanese retailer, which had 21 offline stores in China by mid-2008 but limited online presence locally, to make inroads into the growing online Chinese consumer market.

Under the partnership, Uniqlo will set up a virtual flagship store on Taobao's online marketplace, which had almost 100 million registered users as of December 31, 2008. To further facilitate Uniqlo's online sales push in China, Taobao will also draw on its Internet technologies, resources and experience to help Uniqlo construct a separate retail website. making this the first time for Taobao to power an external website for a partner company. This website and Uniqlo's Taobao store will share the same product database, and members of Taobao can shop on the Uniqlo website without having to register a new username. Through Taobao, Uniqlo will be able to obtain accurate, first-hand data about the consumption pattern of China's young consumers, and design products that would better cater to the local market.

"In the coming future, we will focus on raising our brand awareness in China by leveraging Taobao's huge consumer community," stated Tadashi Yanai, chairman, president and CEO of Fast Retailing, the umbrella company for the Uniqlo brand.

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