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Hong Kong economy

Secret to 50 successful years as sole Fujifilm supplier in Hong Kong? Changing with the times, says CEO

Stanley Sun Tao-hung’s family has been selling Fujifilm products for three generations

PUBLISHED : Monday, 23 July, 2018, 8:33am
UPDATED : Monday, 23 July, 2018, 7:43pm

When Japanese photography and imaging company Fujifilm decided to diversify into skincare products, the writing was on the wall for Hong Kong-listed China-Hongkong Photo Products Holdings, its sole agent in Hong Kong and Macau for 50 years.

As its sole agent, it's our duty to promote and sell everything Fujifilm makes – from film and cameras to its skincare products
Stanley Sun Tao-hung, CEO, China-Hongkong Photo Products Holdings

“We still have a few diehard fans using film and sell a few hundred rolls a month. But the sales of film have dropped dramatically since 2000. This is why both our company and Fujifilm had to diversify our businesses,” says Stanley Sun Tao-hung, China-Hongkong Photo Products’ chief executive.

The company will celebrate the anniversary with a lucky draw for clients of Fotomax, a photoprinting chain it acquired in the early 2000s, as well as a photo exhibition that will see Fujifilm collaborate with international photographic collaborative Magnum Photos on a project called “Home”. The exhibition will feature the works of 16 international award-winning photographers from seven cities, including Hong Kong.

Fujifilm, a name almost synonymous with film photography, has over the past decade diversified into products such as face creams, serums and masks. A new shampoo is nearing launch too.

“As its sole agent, it's our duty to promote and sell everything Fujifilm makes – from film and cameras to its skincare products, which are sold under the brand Astalift. It’s not a household name yet but it has many loyal clients in Hong Kong,” Sun told the South China Morning Post.

Astalift products were first launched in Japan in 2007, and were introduced in Hong Kong in 2010. Initially sold in shops, the range is now sold exclusively online in the city, which is “better suited to a new generation of customers, who want to shop online”, he said.

Fujifilm photography film was very popular in Hong Kong and mainland China – at its peak in 1999, it sold 6.5 million rolls every month in Hong Kong and the mainland. These days, it's the Japanese company’s digital cameras that are enjoying immense popularity. The sales of Fujifilm digital cameras brought in HK$150 million (US$19.1 million) in revenue for China-Hongkong Photo Products last year. Hong Kong was among the brand’s top 10 markets worldwide.

Sun’s family has been selling Fujifilm products for three generations. His grandfather, Sun Chieh-yeh, was a salesman for the company in Hong Kong in the early 1960s. After the 1967 riot, when his boss decided to migrate overseas, his grandfather took over the business in 1968 and secured sole distribution rights for Fujifilm in Hong Kong.

“My grandfather hired eight employees to ride around the city on bicycles, selling black-and-white film in the 1960s and 1970s,” said Sun. “My father, Dennis Sun Tai-lun, joined the company in 1975 and expanded it to sell colour films and other products. My father was also a pioneer in bringing Fujifilm to mainland China, when the country started its economic reform in 1978,” he said.

In its diversification drive, Sun’s company took over Fotomax, which still prints four million pictures a month and has been a stable earner for China-Hongkong Photo Products.

“While people may not use film any more, many use their smartphones and digital cameras to take pictures – and the volume of photos they are taking is huge! Some of them still like to print photos or use images to make calendars, photo albums or other imaging products,” said Sun.

Five years ago, the company also bought AV Life, which sells high-end televisions. AV Life now represents 50 per cent of China-Hongkong Photo Products’ income, the rest coming from Fotomax and Fujifilm. The company reported a net profit of HK$41 million for the financial year ending in March.

“The market and technology may have changed a lot over the past 50 years, but I believe people still love photography. They like to take pictures and share them with their friends and family. By diversifying our business lines and changing our services with time, I am positive our business will thrive in the next 50 years too,” said Sun.