Lai See

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 13 December, 2011, 12:00am


Resourceful retailer will soon be right at home

The shopping mall of Mongolian yurts on top of Central Pier 4 is testimony to Shanghai Tang's flair for reaping a public relations advantage from the adversity of finding itself without a flagship store in Central for about five months. Its Pedder Street store closed in October, the tents come down at the end of the year, while Shanghai Tang Loft - on the sixth floor of Pedder Building - closes on February 20.

Raphael le Masne de Chermont, Shanghai Tang's executive chairman, said in early October, somewhat ruefully: 'Losing the Pedder Street location was unexpected.'

That was the bad news. The good news was that a new site had been found and it was going to be called Shanghai Tang Mansion and will be twice as big as the Pedder Street store and occupy four floors. But he was a bit coy about the location, saying he wanted to generate a bit of mystery around the new site. The chairman said the new store would be within a 350-metre radius of the current shop, but to the east of Pedder Street. We feel we can say with some confidence that the new shop will occupy the premises recently vacated by Exclusivit?s at 1 Duddell Street, Central. This should enliven what is a fairly quiet enclave in Central when the store opens in March.

Who's paying the piper?

Speaking on RTHK's Backchat programme yesterday, Jim Middleton, chairman of anti-pollution group Clear The Air, mentioned that it would be interesting to know the funding for the various interests in Legco that succeeded in delaying then watering down the idling engine legislation.

He makes a good point. Do the bus companies fund political parties? Is this why legislative action to reduce vehicle emissions is so painfully slow?

Most developed economies have laws forcing political parties to divulge the source of their funding. It would be interesting, for example, to know where the DAB gets HK$70 million that enables it to provide free rice to older voters in housing estates, bus them to the polling booths and so on. But since those pulling the party strings are unlikely to want this, it's unlikely to happen.

Club rule an antiquated call

We made the mistake recently in the foyer of that fine establishment the Hong Kong Club of using a phone to look for the e-mail that indicated which of the clubs' dining rooms we were supposed to be dining in. 'I'm sorry, sir, but you can't use that in here,' a staff member politely murmured. We pointed out we weren't using the phone but looking at e-mails in silence. 'I'm sorry, sir, electronic devices are not allowed to be used in the club,' he insisted, and we were ushered outside to join the cigarette addicts.

But what kind of club can this be when the essential tool of the 21st century isn't permitted to be used within its hallowed portals? Depriving someone of their smartphone these days is like taking away their pen, diary, address book and so on. Woe betide you if the phone should actually ring on the premises. Members look askance, as if you'd belched out loud or worse.

It's not as if lunch at the Hong Kong Club is conducted in monastic silence. Those that have dined there will no doubt testify to the atmosphere of agreeable conviviality that frequently prevails in the club's restaurants. However, people who produce business papers during the meal are invited by club staff to put them away - again for breaching some arcane rule. Other members confess that they are bemused by the rule about ties, as to when and where they can be worn.

It all seems a bit odd given the club's high-powered members who run brokerages, legal firms and so on. Maybe in these go-go times eccentricity has its appeal.

Sexual heeling

There was a collective intake of breath when John Mack, the retiring Morgan Stanley chairman, told a farewell gathering for him what he would like to have done if he hadn't been a banker. He informed the slightly startled audience that he would quite like to have been a women's shoe salesman.

Dealbreaker reports: 'He said he loves watching the fierce New York ladies trying on Manolo Blahniks at Bergdorf Goodman - and recommends that all men go there and just sit and watch - because ladies will just walk up to you and ask you for your opinion.'

In fact: 'Once, he told a woman, 'Those are the ones. Get them.' And the manager came up to him and said, 'Can you come here every day?' Mack said he planned on becoming a part-time salesman in the women's shoe department at Bergdorf's.'

No one was sure if he was joking - but you have to wonder about him.




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