Luxury brand Shanghai Tang plans to move into a group of tents at a ferry pier after becoming the latest victim of soaring commercial rents in Central.
The iconic Hong Kong clothing company is quitting the Pedder Building premises that housed its flagship store for 17 years after the monthly rent more than doubled to HK$7 million. It plans to move the flagship store to a four-storey building 350 metres east of the Pedder branch in March next year.
In the meantime, Shanghai Tang will set up shop on the rooftop of Central Ferry Pier 4, where it plans to erect Mongolian tents, called yurts, in line with its Mongolian-inspired Christmas collection. These 'pop-up' stores will operate from November 4 to December 31.
'We hope there will be no typhoons,' said Raphael le Masne de Chermont, the brand's executive chairman.
The company decided to give up its 6,300 sq ft space on the ground floor and basement of the Grade II listed historic Pedder Building after losing a bidding war against American lifestyle brand Abercrombie & Fitch, which agreed to pay two-and-a-half times the previous rent.
However, Shanghai Tang - known for its colourful cheongsams and traditional Chinese accessories - said it had rented a 2,000 sq ft shop on the building's sixth floor, which would also serve as one of its outlets until February next year.
'Losing [the original store] at Pedder [Building] was not fun. It was unexpected,' said Le Masne de Chermont. 'But I hope people will realise Shanghai Tang is more than Pedder. We are a brand, not just a store.'
But the chairman said it was important for the brand to stay in Central despite an influx of Western brands that had pushed up rents.
'If you want to be seen, you have to be in Central,' he said. 'All those brands from the Western world want to take a piece of the mainland market. Real estate went berserk and we had to adapt.
'We are born and bred in Hong Kong. And we owe a lot to this city.'
He said their client base had evolved in recent years from mostly Western patrons to an 'equal split' between Western and Chinese customers today. 'Mainland customers are now 18 per cent of our customers, compared to only 2 per cent three years ago.'
Many famous names have shopped at its flagship store, including Britain's Prince Andrew, the Duke of York; Sophie, Countess of Wessex; US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton; fashion designer Giorgio Armani; and celebrities Richard Gere, Nicolas Cage, David Bowie, Bryan Ferry and Annie Lennox.
Le Masne de Chermont said the new shop, to be called Shanghai Tang Mansion, will be twice as large as the two-floor flagship store.
The firm - founded by David Tang, who has a knighthood, and bought by Swiss group Richemont in 1999 - has 42 stores worldwide, including seven in Hong Kong.
The revenue, in US dollars, posted by Richemont luxury group, of which Shanghai Tang is a subsidiary, as of last year