Mitsui & Co, one of Japan’s largest general trading companies, has invested in Singaporean apparel retailer Triple, taking a minority stake in the omni-channel sports and lifestyle retailer that operates brand stores, shop-in-shop operations, wholesale distribution and e-commerce in key Southeast Asian countries.
Dating back to 1876, Mitsui & Co is a Japanese company largely involved in the energy sector, though it also has businesses in fields ranging from chemicals and iron and steel, to transportation and communications systems and food products and services. It operates over 140 offices in 65 countries.
Triple was launched in September 2013, primarily as a wholesaler for American sportswear brand Under Armour. It maintains exclusive distributorship for the brand in nine Southeast Asian countries.
According to Triple’s CEO, Michael Binger, talks between both parties had gone on for approximately six to eight months before the deal was completed on May 18. Binger also said that Mitsui and Triple were hoping to leverage on the partnership to drive their expansion into e-commerce.
“Mitsui’s current strategy focuses on brand marketing in downstream sector, among which sports and lifestyle is the key category judging from the global trend. Establishing the retail network in rapidly growing market such as South-east Asia is regarded as the key element to leverage this brand marketing strategy. Triple’s participation is the best fit to these points” said Toshi Sakurai, general manager of the consumer service business department of Mitsui & Co (Asia Pacific).
Triple has opened five Under Armour stores and shop-in-shop outlets in Singapore, three in the Philippines and three in Malaysia, all within shopping malls in prime locations. Store expansion in core markets – Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand – will see four additional store open in 2015 and five to six stores in 2016.
Triple also plans to enter Indonesia, Brunei and Vietnam via a network of partner stores and shop-in- shop executions. They intend to open five to six new stores and approximately 10 shop-in-shop locations tin 2016. By end-2018, Triple forecasts it will have a total store network of approximately 35 locations, including shop-in-shop executions for the Under Armour brand exclusively.
Leveraging on their current landlord relations, Triple also hopes to expand their selection of brands and increase their overall number of stores. The global apparel market is estimated to be worth around US$1.7 trillion, with 6 percent annual growth.
Southeast Asia is particularly dynamic with a 10 percent annual growth rate. This is due to an expanding consumer market and the growth of middle-class consumers. Coupled with greater interest in health and wellness, the sportswear category has emerged as a key driver for the apparel market.
Commenting on the deal, Binger said, “Triple sees Mitsui as a strong long-term strategic partner with good complementary strengths. Mitsui has a network of relations with brands that are not yet represented in South-east Asia, and with the wide business interests of Mitsui and Triple’s rapid growth, there will be other areas of cooperation, including logistics.”