Opening a milestone in retail development
By MYRTLE CROWTHER
THIS year celebrates the 10th anniversary of Chinese Arts and Crafts (CAC) Hongkong Limited Silvercord branch, a store which marks a milestone in the development of the thriving chain.
The branch, in Canton Road, is CAC's largest outlet, covering a net area of 70,000 square feet.
From the outset, the Silvercord branch was intended to make a difference - from the wide range of quality Chinese and imported goods stocked, to the surroundings in which they were housed.
It represented a change in marketing strategy for CAC stores, which had previously been more humble in their aspirations, and carried mainly Chinese products for mass consumption.
But from the moment the first customer stepped into the main entrance of the Silvercord branch, it became obvious the store was intended to cater to a wider market.
Situated in the heart of busy Tsim Sha Tsui, the store is targeted at tourists and locals alike.
In the spacious and elegant interior, shoppers could browse through all the goods usually found in a CAC store. These included traditional Chinese antiques, arts and crafts, jewellery, furniture, and silks.
But for the first time there were also major brands from all over the world, and a 20,000-square-foot ''European Home Furnishing Plaza''.
The Silvercord branch was important because it represented CAC's decision to create a complete selection of Chinese and foreign goods, but its opening also coincided with a change in the sort of Chinese products which were being produced.
Between 1971 and 1981, the value of Chinese arts and crafts exported to Hongkong rose from $295 million to $2.5 billion.
In tandem with the mood of change and reform in China, the 1980s saw a new direction for Chinese products.
For instance, silks became brighter, with more innovative patterns and brightly coloured designs.
Traditional craft elements were incorporated into designs for everyday appliances - giving them a practical as well as an ornamental function.
It was recognised that creativity and innovation in design were vital for China to produce competitive goods for the export market.
More lines were introduced in traditional areas of Chinese arts and crafts, gift items, jewellery, silks, porcelain, ceramics and rattan, as well as in textiles, leather goods, umbrellas, and furniture.
In keeping with the dictum ''you can't have quality export goods without quality design'', staff were sent overseas for further training, and the exchange of skills and ideas.
This recipe for success made CAC the largest chain group specialising in arts and crafts in Hongkong in 1983.
CAC now employs more than 1,200 staff, in seven branches across the territory (two in Hongkong, and five in Kowloon), covering a total area of 260,000 square feet.