Explorer: Hong Kong

Lap of luxury

Despite challengers to the regional retail crown, Hong Kong is still the place where new retail concepts are found first. Brands trial their latest ideas here as they are often readily accepted and quickly proven or not.

One such concept is the new Ralph’s Coffee, an upmarket cafe from the Ralph Lauren brand stable. The brand has already made headway in New York, Chicago, London and Paris, and in April opened its first Asia outlet in the hugely popular Ocean Terminal Mall. Richly decorated in the brands hero green livery, it has a Brooklyn style ‘look and feel’ with smart, signature packaging for take home coffee and associated coffee brew wares.

Also in The Ocean Terminal is a new branch of the BEYORG Organic spa – also with stores in the upscale Landmark and Pacific Place. Beauty retailers abound in Hong Kong, and it’s a huge and booming business. But to make money brands must have a superior concept and elevated brand delivery for success: A clearly differentiated brand concept, high innovation, superior service and simply the most beautiful and effective products. This brand ticks all the boxes.

Other points of newness include the latest Cos flagship store (bigger but different?), in Central and the eye-catching but bizarre Prada Pop Up Store in the Pacific Mall. This homage to retro train travel sees Prada with its own massive replica train carriage of the Silver Line. This doubles as a place to its luxury bags, luggage and leather goods.

Visiting a ‘quality’ mall near you, the Prada Silver Line Pop Up Shop is currently working its way around upscale shopping malls around the world – last stop before Hong Kong was Istanbul. Europe and the USA are scheduled.

Retail and retailers are always evolving, and the pace in Hong Kong is only getting faster. Without continual investment instore – especially in bold cutting edge retail environments (no half measures work here)… brands can quickly date and look tired.

In my opinion, this point should not be lost on Hong Kong mainstay, Lane Crawford. This eponymous chain of luxury department stores is starting to look weary. It’s main stores in Times Square, The Ocean Terminal, Pacific Place and IFC mall are rapidly slipping behind. Lane Crawford has long been a byword in brand innovation and luxury through the products it stocks. Brands and consumers want to be seen here. But it has been some time since any major refurbishment work was carried out in its stores, and whilst VM and standards are still pretty much on point, shoppers have not experienced anything new for some years.

With competition so fierce, there can be no room for complacency. And while its stores may still look ‘new’ to tourist and one time shoppers, Hong Kongers with large disposable income and lavish lifestyles will no doubt be eager to see new, more and better from their ‘go to’ department store brand.

Like the Prada Silver Line train, Retail doesn’t stop in one place for long. While it is evident that the Chinese tourists are back in Hong Kong – doubtlessly a relief to luxury International brands that, for many years, were boosted by the emerging Chinese middle-class economy – and eager to ‘jump aboard’, with them comes heightened expectations for new ideas, better concepts, leading standards of store presentation and exceptional customer service. Retailers in the region may once again be set to see their fortunes grow; but success is likely to be reserved only for those that have to continued to invest in ‘better’.