The operator of Japanese casual clothing chain Uniqlo plans to open 1,000 stores in China by 2020 and achieve more than 10 billion dollars in sales in the country, reports said Friday.

The charismatic chairman and president of Fast Retailing Co, Tadashi Yanai, said "China has transformed itself from a developing country to the world's largest growth centre", as quoted by Japanese newspapers.

He outlined his plan at a news conference in Shanghai, and said he was targeting 1 trillion yen (11 billion dollars) in sales.

The comments came ahead of the retailer's opening of a flagship store in Shanghai with a floor space of about 3,600 square metres (38,750 square feet), the largest for any Uniqlo outlet.

Fast Retailing had 59 Uniqlo outlets in China and Hong Kong as of the end of February.

Yanai said earlier this week he plans to open 500 new international stores a year in the next three to five years in cities such as Berlin, Madrid and Barcelona with eyes also on South American expansion.

The clothing empire, founded by billionaire Yanai, is seen as a rare success story in a domestic retail sector battered by deflation and weak demand. But such conditions have prompted it to look overseas for growth.

Yanai has long aimed to grow his company to become the top global clothing retailer competing with foreign giants such as Gap, Zara and H&M.

Uniqlo currently operates more than 900 stores, including roughly 125 shops in countries ranging from China to Britain to the United States.