Spotlight sets sight on mainland

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 June, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 June, 2007, 12:00am

Spotlight, Australia's biggest home improvement retail chain, is seeking a mainland partner as it aims to open 40 stores over the next five years in the company's first significant expansion outside its home market.

Spotlight, which opened its first Hong Kong store this month in Kowloon Bay, will set up at least one mainland outlet in one to two years, chief executive Stephen Carter said.

The company is following Britain's B&Q and Home Depot of the United States in trying to cash in on rising home sales in the mainland, where in major cities home ownership has reached 70 per cent, comparable to or even higher than most developed countries.

China is the only country where B&Q, Home Depot and Spotlight compete head-to-head.

'We have been speaking to about 10 joint-venture arrangements, [which] have operation teams in Macau, the Chinese mainland and also Taiwan,' said Mr Carter, adding that Spotlight intended to take a controlling stake of any venture.

He said he saw opportunities in Beijing, Shanghai and Qingdao.

Mr Carter said the mainland would become the main growth driver for Spotlight.

He said Spotlight's focus on arts and craft, sewing and fabrics differed from B&Q and Home Depot, which emphasised do-it-yourself hardware, including power tools, paints and floor materials.

Home Depot in December agreed to buy the mainland's Homeway for US$100 million, including 12 outlets in cities such as Beijing and Qingdao. B&Q, which bought a 13-store retail chain in 2005, has 58 mainland outlets and plans up to 100 by 2010.

Mr Carter said a challenge for Spotlight in Hong Kong and the mainland was the difference in seasons as both markets were in the northern hemisphere.