Uniqlo rival and clothing retailer United Arrows is to launch in Europe and the US after months of speculation, according to Tokyo-based retail consultants Japan Consuming.

United Arrows has confirmed it will launch in Europe and the US, starting next year. Taking advantage of the weak level of the yen, Japan's leading select shop operator will focus on its core strengths in suits and jackets, but with Japanese design details and prices at less than local luxury brands.

The Tokyo-based clothing chain operator, which offers a range of trendy apparel and lifestyle products, is considered as being the largest operator of so called "select" shops. It saw March same-store sales climb 6.5% on the year, thanks to strong demand for accessories.

Founded by former Beams staff, United Arrows will announce dates and the number of new overseas stores in the near future, a spokeswomen said. Meanwhile the company will sell about JPY3bn (US$0.026bn) worth of its own shares to Mitsubishi Corp to strengthen their alliance.

The Tokyo-based clothing chain operator said it will sell 1.63m of its own shares it currently holds to Mitsubishi for JPY1,843 per share. The transaction will give Mitsubishi a 3.41% stake in United Arrows.

By Michael Fitzpatrick.