You'll have to forgive me for not catching this one sooner. A year ago, I wrote about the possibility of Japanese retailer Fast Retailing's Uniqlo business setting up shop in the U.S. and the potential competitive problems that could cause for Gap (NYSE:GPS). However, it looks like I wasn't paying close enough attention, because in the last six months, Uniqlo has opened three stores in New Jersey and now has one store open temporarily in the SoHo neighborhood of Manhattan.

Overall, I still believe Uniqlo poses the biggest threat to Gap's namesake stores and its Old Navy shops, because the price point, style, and level of quality are similar. Whether or not Uniqlo ends up being a true threat will take years to play out, and Uniqlo will also need to prove that it will endure in the U.S. and is not just a passing fad. As a customer of Uniqlo for a number of years, I believe the company can compete successfully, largely because the company has had some success in the U.K., Hong Kong, and Korea.

What we do know at this point is that Uniqlo is happy enough with its current results in the U.S. that it has decided to inject another $24 million of capital into its U.S. business. This is on top of the original $6 million that was put into the business to get the first three stores up and running. On Fast Retailing's website (link opens .PDF file), the company cited strengthening the U.S. business and additional store openings as the reason for the capital infusion.

Fast Retailing is not by any means a small company. Although Uniqlo is its largest brand and sports 682 stores in Japan alone, the company also has a number of smaller brands under its umbrella, including the more upscale Theory line. For fiscal 2005, the company reported 383.9 billion yen ($3.3 billion) in sales, and with net profit margins around 10%, that translates into earnings in the neighborhood of $300 million. The company also has a sound balance sheet and has room to take on some debt, if necessary.

To a lesser extent, I also think that American Eagle Outfitters (NASDAQ:AEOS) and, potentially, Abercrombie & Fitch (NYSE:ANF) will want to keep an eye on Uniqlo as well, because they share a similar customer profile to Uniqlo. These two operate with a slightly different focus and style, but there are only so many retailing dollars to go around, and if Uniqlo begins to do well, it will most likely be among the teen and young adult crowd. Unfortunately, Fast Retailing shares aren't readily available to U.S. investors, but I think the story is still one worth following.

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Nathan Parmelee owns shares in American Eagle Outfitters but has no financial stake in any of the other companies mentioned. The Motley Fool has an ironclad disclosure policy.