A designer bag for everyone

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 24 June, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 24 June, 2010, 12:00am

Name: Byron Yiu Kwan-tat
Occupation: chairman and CEO of Milan Station
Hobbies: playing tennis, collecting limited-edition goods from luxury brands
Playlist: I rarely listen to music
Sign: Sagittarius

The man: 'I have worked in different industries: I've been a waiter, a hawker and a salesman.

'I started out in sales in the 90s, renting a function room at a hotel to sell second-hand luxury fashion items. I did quite well. But then I thought, clothes are a risky investment, because customers need to try them on; and when the style is out, no one wants it anymore. So I thought maybe I could try bags.

'I had a lot of interaction with people who were interested in my goods, and realised that direct sales are the key to success. You need to tell potential customers how good your products are, and direct contact and communication will mean successful transactions.

'The idea is easy: if a powerful vacuum cleaner is placed on the top shelf at a department store where nobody can see it, perhaps only two will be sold in a month. But if you demonstrate it and interact with customers at a promotion counter, you'll have a much better response, and probably more than 10 could be sold.

'I took this concept and placed all the luxury handbags in a shop so customers could touch them, feel them, try them and check them out in the mirror. I mixed the 'Sham Shui Po' shopping style with luxury goods, and offered a very different luxury goods shopping experience.'

According to a previous interview with the South China Morning Post, Yiu said: 'Owning a prestigious handbag is the dream of many girls, whether rich or not so rich. We make their dream come true at a lower cost.'

The idea of his chain was to sell and buy back used handbags, a sort of 'handbag rental' system. The shop buys back the used handbag from a buyer who bought it there at a discount. The cycle continues to make luxury handbags affordable for everyone in the city.

Yiu set up Milan Station with partners in 2001. The chain now has 11 outlets scattered around tourist shopping areas like Causeway Bay, Tsim Sha Tsui, Mong Kok and Central, with a couple of branches in further out areas such as Yuen Long and Sha Tin. There are also overseas outlets in Beijing, Macau and Taipei.

Influences: 'I think the HK$1 auction [common auction of household goods held around Hong Kong up until the 1990s] had a very strong influence on me. That was the time when I found out about direct sales and communicating with customers, and I learned the most important lesson of my life.'

Vision for future: 'Two new branches of Milan Station will open in Beijing and Shanghai this year. But I doubt I will take my Milan Station to the real Milan, because luxury goods are viewed so differently by Europeans.

'Asians are extremely conscious of fashion trends and change styles all the time.'