NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 09:  The interior of Uniqlo is seen at the grand opening of the Uniqlo global flagship store on November 9, 2006 in New York City.  (Photo by Rob Loud/Getty Images)

Uniqlo's flagship store in New York City. Photo: Getty Images

A new wave of international brands is heading down under, with the Japanese retailer Uniqlo understood to have signed a deal for a 3000 square metre store in the new Emporium Melbourne.

Uniqlo and Top Shop/Top Man will join Sass + Bide, Salvatore Ferragamo, Scanlan & Theodore, Zimmerman and 220 other stores in the $1.16 billion Lonsdale Street project when it opens late next year.

Co-owner CFS Retail Trust declined to comment but said in its most recent update that several international brands had shown strong interest in the centre.

The mooted deal comes as European chain H&M is said to be close to leasing a store in the Glasshouse mall in Sydney, while Uniqlo is scouring the same area for a possible site.

H&M and Apple are also believed to be searching for prime retail space in the Melbourne CBD.

But as the new stores open to large crowds, traditional department stores continue to feel the squeeze of a tightening economy.

According to the latest data, retail spending rose by 0.5 per cent in September. But over the September quarter, retail trade fell 0.1 per cent in real (inflation-adjusted) terms.

CommSec chief economist Craig James said the figures show that department stores are clearly in trouble.

''In the September quarter real spending at department stores fell by 3.6 per cent - the biggest decline in seven years,'' he said.