Inaugural exhibition has success in store
Hong Kong has truly earned its reputation as a shopper's paradise, with its multitude of high-end designer labels, bargain market stalls and thousands of factory outlet stores.
Shopping is one of the main reasons why tourists from around the world, especially from the mainland, visit the city in droves.
According to government figures, total retail sales last year was HK$25.3 billion, and the city's 57,000 retail establishments employ 241,000 people.
Retail also plays an important role in all economies in the region, so it is surprising that until now there has not been a major exhibition event for the retail business in the Asia-Pacific.
But tomorrow will see the opening of the first Retail Asia Expo and Congress, at the Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai.
It will run until Friday, will be free to enter and will include a programme of free seminars.
'Hong Kong is the perfect choice to hold the Retail Asia Expo and Congress,' said Stuart Bailey, general manager of Diversified Events HK, organiser of the event.
He said Hong Kong, in addition to being a haven for suppliers and consumers, also acted as a stepping stone into the mainland's vast and attractive retail market.
And, with overseas retailing businesses seeing limited growth in their domestic markets, the opportunity to expand into the mainland and elsewhere in Asia was just too good to miss, Mr Bailey said. The expo will feature about 100 leading suppliers and Mr Bailey said that 150 to 200 delegates would take part in the congress.
The expo will be made up of two exhibitions: Retail Design and InStore Marketing Expo, and the Retail Technology Expo.
They aim to provide the 'best and latest' technology and designs to retailing businesses to serve the specific needs of visitors.
According to Diversified Events, these two elements are vital to retail success, especially in this poor economic climate, when attracting and keeping the loyalty of clients.
And increasing operational efficiencies, while working to reduce costs at the same time, are critical for survival.
'We have interviewed big retailing businesses, such as Moet Hennessy-Louis Vuitton, in the Asia-Pacific region and they have told us how much difficulty they are having in finding new store designs and the latest technology for their products,' Mr Bailey said.
He said that these companies usually had to go through various sources to find the information and products and services they needed.
At the Retail Asia Expo they can find all their needs at one event.
The high-level conferences that will run alongside the expo will bring together delegates from around the world, who will focus on the most important and critical strategic issues facing the industry.
Although this is the first year of the expo, the inaugural Retail Asia Congress took place in Hong Kong last year and was a resounding success. About 165 delegates, mainly from the Asia-Pacific, attended that event and the theme was 'Building your own brand'.
This year, with the continuing economic crisis, topics of the congress will focus on survival strategies and how to save costs. Environmental concerns will also be addressed, with a focus on how to lower companies' carbon footprints.
Mr Bailey said that a lot of work was put into advertising this first Retail Asia Expo to attract the right visitors.
Partnerships with big local and regional retail associations were formed. Locally, Diversified Events formed partnerships with the Hong Kong Retail Management Association and Hong Kong Tourism Board to attract an expected 8,000 to 10,000 visitors.
Mr Bailey said that highlights of the expo would include the latest products relating to radio frequency identification, a vital tool for efficient supply chain management.
Digital signage, that attracts customer attention and encourages interaction, is another item in the spotlight.
Alongside these are people counting systems, security gates and tagging, and electronic point of sale systems that will interest visitors.
The lighting systems and in-store marketing exhibitions in the store design section would be a focal point of attention, Mr Bailey said.
He added that 'in-store designs are now moving away from the traditional Asian mentality of putting as many products in the store as possible, to gain the biggest profit.
Stores, nowadays, such as Lane Crawford, put less items on the shelves to create more free space in between each product and provide a more comfortable atmosphere for customers'.
There will also be some of the latest eye-catching innovations on display created by Zoie So and Hamlet Lin.
Radiant Text, by So, uses soap bubbles as a dynamic projection screen. A cylindrical bubble machine will produce soap film which will act as screen surfaces for a video projection that takes place inside a darkened canvas-covered area.
The changes in thickness and shape of the soap film will display the projected texts in vivid forms and radiant colours.
Blink Blink, by Lin, is made up of a short-throw projector, which acts as a tracker, placed on a screen or wall.
When there is no one around the projector, there will be nothing displayed but when people walk close to it, an eye with a big pupil and small eyeballs will appear on the wall or screen and it will move to follow the people, tracking their positions.
There will also be a Design Gallery in the expo which will showcase outstanding retail designs and in-store marketing designs picked out from the exhibitions by the expo organiser.
The opening times are 10am to 6pm (tomorrow and Thursday) and 10am to 5pm on Friday.
Alongside the exhibitors on the main floors of the expo are two seminar theatres designed to 'inform, inspire and educate'.
Transforming Retail Experience
Philip Wong, customer solution architect, Cisco Systems.
General Visual Merchandising Principles and Examples
Valerie Wilson Trower, retail consultant and fashion academic.
Visual Merchandising Masterclasses
Tomorrow 1.45pm, Thursday 12.30pm, Friday 1.45pm
New Media Arts in Retail Environment
Zoie So and Hamlet Lin, artists, in association with Tech-Trans, Network Applications Group.
F.I.T (Fashion Intelligent Technology) - Innovative use of RFID & Biometric technologies in fashion retailing and shop security
Matthew Man, business consultant, Megasoft.