Dickson plan for expansion

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 September, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 September, 1995, 12:00am

LUXURY brand retailer Dickson Concepts (International) has plans for substantial expansion in Hong Kong, despite the retail slump, baffling most analysts.

Almost in defiance of the pinch being generally felt by retailers in the territory and the rest of the region, group executive chairman Dickson Poon revealed a plan to open a full-scale department store in Hong Kong in the style of Harvey Nichols in Britain, a group Dickson acquired in 1991.

Mr Poon said the company had been working on the plan for the department store since the beginning of the year as the British operation established a hold.

Analysts doubted the soundness of the department store plan because operators in the field were already struggling to reduce costs.

Mr Poon also said yesterday his firm would open as many as 10 shops in Hong Kong during the current financial year, and about eight in other areas of Asia.

Mr Poon said falls in rent were helping the firm's expansion in Hong Kong.

He said the company would stick to traditional shopping districts in Central, Causeway Bay, Tsim Sha Tsui, and certain parts of the New Territories.

Mr Poon said the company would not move to downmarket areas to get cheaper rents, because it had an upmarket image.

Critics admitted the licence Dickson secured in December last year to run Warner Brothers stores in Hong Kong and Singapore, their first in Asia, was a potential money-making machine.

The film studio chain had a track record of making huge revenues in the United States.

Analysts said such stores could rely on novelty value to take in huge profits for the first two or three years, and thereafter exploit a strong client base of tourists, children and gift-shoppers.

Harvey Nichols boutiques have been closing in Hong Kong, having apparently failed to snare the fashion dollar.

In their experimental stage, the boutiques were planned as offshoots of Harvey Nichols in Britain, analysts said.

HG Asia analyst Anne Fokstuen said: 'In fashion you either make it or you don't and Dickson is quite good in streamlining its product line and focus on the Polo segment.' Mr Poon said the group was meeting a double-digit profit growth target for the year.

In Beijing, the firm's store would probably break even, and not make a material impact on group contribution yet, he said.

Responding to rumours that the group was negotiating to buy ailing department store David Jones in Australia, Mr Poon said his firm did not have much interest in that country, although it had agents representing it.