Coils Lam Wai-chun, founding chairman of Hong Kong’s popular 759 Store, dies aged 60

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 19 August, 2018, 9:19pm
UPDATED : Monday, 20 August, 2018, 11:03am

Coils Lam Wai-chun, the founding chairman of 759 Store – which has taken on the big supermarket chains in Hong Kong’s highly competitive retail market – has died at the age of 60.

CEC International Holdings, which operates 759 Store, announced in a stock exchange filing on Sunday that Lam had died at the Hong Kong Sanatorium & Hospital on Saturday. It did not disclose the cause of death.

“The board will use its best endeavours to continue its business operations by adhering to the business strategies laid down by the late chairman,” executive director Tang Fung-kwan said in a statement.

“The board will remap its composition and further announcements will be made as soon as practicable. The late chairman had provided tremendous leadership, guidance and support to the group. On behalf of all staff of the group, the board extends its deepest condolences to Mr Lam’s family.”

Lam, a successful home-grown industrialist, spent more than 30 years manufacturing coils for home appliances and telecommunications and audio-visual products. He started out at a Japanese electronics company that he joined after completing primary school. He worked there for eight years before setting up a small coils factory in a 100 square foot space in North Point when he was about 20.

He later ventured north to set up a coils factory in Zhongshan. In 1999, with 10,000 staff on its books, the coils company listed on the main board with the stock code 759.

In 2010 he stepped into the snack-retailing business by setting up 759 Store – named after the stock code of his company – in a bid to diversify his business. It became so popular that it soon expanded into other retail products and was seen as a serious challenger to major supermarket chains.

The seller of noodles, snacks and other food products had over 250 shops around the city, but high rents forced the company to scale down to 220 stores with 2,070 staff as of October last year.

“The key to success for a new business is the word ‘new’,” Lam told the South China Morning Post in an interview in 2013. “One would not be able to succeed if one only copied the old ways of others. If you find a successful noodle shop and open another one next to it selling the same style of noodle, it will not work.”

“Before 759, there were no shops focusing on Japanese and Korean snacks at reasonable prices. Hong Kong people like Japanese and Korean lifestyle and food very much. The products I introduced from Japan and Korea are consumed by regular families,” he said.

Lam was media friendly and made himself easily available for comments. When the United States-China trade war started to escalate, he spoke to the Post for the last time in early July.

“So far the trade war has not had a big impact on 759 Store. We only sell crisps, snacks or noodles. People will come and buy something good to enjoy even if the trade war is still going on,” he said in a phone interview.