Catering to local consumers, 759Store chain ploughs ahead despite worries over visitor number cuts

With emphasis on locals not tourists, empire is growing fast, with new health and beauty retail chain and udon and wonton noodle restaurants

PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 June, 2014, 4:48am
UPDATED : Friday, 13 June, 2014, 11:58am

The 759Store will power ahead with a plan to open 13 more shops selling cosmetics and personal care products this year, despite speculation that the government is looking at curbing mainland tourist numbers.

Coils Lam Wai-chun, the boss of the fast-growing chain, which made a name selling snacks and other processed food at bargain prices, is also upbeat about his new initiatives - including collaboration with Japanese noodle brand Nissin to introduce "759 udon" next month.

And in July, a wonton noodle shop under the 759 brand will open in Sham Shui Po.

Lam was dismissive of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's remarks last week that the government was "listening to views" about whether it should slow down the influx of mainland visitors, which is expected to rise from 40 million last year to 100 million by 2020.

"[Leung] is just playing with words," Lam said. "Everybody has now turned their focus to the falling prices of retail stocks.

"The government makes things look like a disaster, but is not doing anything to solve the problem," he added.

Instead of causing panic, authorities should improve infrastructure and increase tourist attractions, he said.

Leung has played down media reports saying the cut he had in mind was 20 per cent.

Lam's decision to ignore the pessimism and press on with his expansion plans will increase the number of 759 Kawaiiland - a new chain of outlets selling personal care products - from seven to 20. He had also renewed rental contracts with The Link Management on about 20 stores this year at "moderate rates", he said.

Lam credits the speed of the 759Store expansion - opening 200 outlets since it was launched less than four years ago - to targeting local consumers instead of tourists.

"I'm not trying to be Sasa, selling costly perfumes," he said. "It is the market of Mannings and Watsons [pharmacy chains] that I want to explore."

Snacks, mostly from Japan, accounted for 60 per cent of his main brand's sales in its early days, but now make up only about 44 per cent of the business, with frozen and canned food and household goods helping account for the rest.

Recent popular products include small rice cookers aimed at couples, with 2,000 sold in three weeks.