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The Fortnum & Mason department store at the K11 Musea shopping mall in Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong. Photo: Bloomberg

Mid-Autumn Festival: Fortnum & Mason returns with its collection of luxury mooncakes for Hong Kong customers

  • The luxury British brand aims to grow its mooncake sales by 30 per cent after last year’s success
  • Fortnum is considering another outlet at Hong Kong International Airport if travel restrictions are eased
Fortnum & Mason, the upmarket London department store that counts the British royal family among its customers, is back again with a collection of tea-flavoured mooncakes for the upcoming Mid-Autumn Festival.
Despite being a newcomer to the mooncake scene last year, Fortnum’s Mid-Autumn Festival line sold over 5,000 units in Hong Kong, said Carmen Chiu, the regional managing director of Asia-Pacific, adding that they are aiming for a 30 per cent increase in sales this year.

Fortnum has launched its tea-infused mooncakes as a way to differentiate itself from the market, combining the brand’s famous teas, from Royal Blend to Earl Grey, with the traditional Chinese delicacy.

Since opening its first Hong Kong bricks-and-mortar store, a 7,000 square foot space at K11 Musea in 2019, the brand has managed to see single-digit growth, despite the challenges brought by the anti-government protests and the Covid-19 pandemic.

Fortnum & Mason’s tea-infused mooncake flavours include Matcha, Earl Grey and Royal Blend. Photo: Facebook

“[The pandemic] is just something that we can’t really predict,” Chiu said. “But I think if there is something that you can’t control, you need to learn to live with it and [remain] relevant.”

“The brand may be relatively new to Hong Kong customers, but we have 315 years of history behind us; we’re not a nobody,” says Chiu. “[Fortnum] constantly strives to understand the local market and culture but also makes sure that the essence is right for the brand.”

Hong Kong’s retail sales had a bumpy start in the first half of the year, plunging 14.6 per cent in February, the sharpest decline in 19 months, because of stringent social-distancing curbs amid the height of the fifth wave of the coronavirus outbreak between January and March.

In the first five months of the year, overall retail sales were down 7.6 per cent year on year, according to the Hong Kong Census and Statistics Department.


How to make traditional mooncakes with five-star hotel dim sum master chef Tse Sun-fuk

How to make traditional mooncakes with five-star hotel dim sum master chef Tse Sun-fuk
However, the food and beverage and luxury retail sectors have performed better in the past two months, said Michael Cheng, Asia-Pacific, mainland China and Hong Kong consumer markets leader at PwC.

“At shopping malls like K11, Times Square and IFC, the traffic [has] definitely come back much better [and] faster. That’s the reason high-end luxury and F&B are stronger compared to other sectors,” says Cheng.

As restrictions eased and the government handed out e-consumption vouchers, April saw a year-on-year boost in spending, up 11.7 per cent, the first double-digit increase of the year.

During the recent fifth wave, Fortnum teamed with digital food platform Deliveroo to promote its famous afternoon tea. It also partnered with travel platform Klook to offer customers a chance to enjoy in-room dining deals tied to staycations at the Rosewood hotel.

Even before Fortnum first threw open the doors of its debut Hong Kong store, it had received 3,000 afternoon tea reservations from eager customers.

Marking the brand’s 315th anniversary this year, CEO Tom Athron said that the company plans to open a branch at the Hong Kong International Airport by the end of the year, if the airport opens in a “meaningful way” to travellers.


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All you need to know about Mid-Autumn Festival: Chang’e, mooncakes and the Fire Dragon Dance

Athron says the company is also looking to launch pop-up shops in the mainland, the Greater Bay Area and Macau.

“If those pop-ups prove to be a success, we may look to do something more permanent. But at the moment, we are prioritising investment in our digital capabilities rather than physical shops,” says Athron.

Athron says Chinese consumers’ hybrid purchasing habits and the impact of live-stream influencers on sales hold the key to success.

As part of Fortnum’s plans to expand its digital presence, it launched on the e-commerce platform Tmall last month. Alibaba owns Tmall and the Post. Fortnum’s non-alcoholic sparkling tea and biscuits are top sellers among Chinese consumers online.

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While travel restrictions have kept mainland tourists away, Chiu says the company’s presence on T-mall will help increase brand recognition. She hopes that when borders finally open, customers will flock to the physical store.

“Our presence [in Hong Kong] has given us so much confidence with mainland tourists [and] with domestic customers that we know we have got the right model,” says Chiu.

“We all know Hong Kong is still the international window and the gateway to the mainland.”