Traditional markets in Hong Kong will have to keep up with changing times

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 February, 2017, 4:51pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 08 February, 2017, 11:19pm

It takes audacity to bring about meaningful change. By speeding up the enhancement of its fresh markets, Link Asset Management Limited has renovated about 20 markets, including the recently refurbished Butterfly Market, Tin Shing Market and Maritime Market, each with its distinctive character, and each providing shoppers with better services.

Although subject to occasional criticism, Link has remained committed to its mission to revamp its properties through service innovations. A case in point is the renovation work undertaken by its single-letting operator at Maritime Market in Tsing Yi, which draws on the district’s history to offer a brand new market featuring ocean themes.

The refreshing shopping environment, broader array of fresh foods and shopping corridors wide enough for wheelchairs appeal to local residents and customers from other districts as well. These improvements also contribute to higher footfall, which supports the business growth of tenants.

Despite these tangible benefits, Maritime Market has been criticised by some concern groups for wasting resources on a large LED display showing sea creatures, and for its theme park-like ambience (which has made it a popular photo spot).

Are the Link’s fresh market upgrades stifling small retailers, as some have claimed? Far from it. These upgrades are modernising Hong Kong’s fresh market sector and contributing to its sustainable development.

Traditional markets, created out of the need to accommodate illegal hawkers of the past, can no longer satisfy the needs of today’s shoppers. Unless these markets are remoulded to keep up with changing times, they will continue to suffer from a shrinking market share as more customers are attracted to supermarkets.

The provision of fresh food, the main strength of the market trade, is best maintained by fresh markets attracting high patronage to ensure a high turnover of fresh produce at the stalls. Failing this, even if exempted from rental charges, stall tenants will experience poor sales and leave.

Regarding the claim that the Link’s revamped markets are selling high-end food items like Wagyu beef, market stalls cannot survive unless their offerings are seen as affordable and meeting the needs of their customer base.

As the standard of living improves, customers expect a greater diversity of food choices. If they cannot buy what they want at their neighbourhood market, they will get it elsewhere. That is why I say there are different perspectives to look at the same issue.

B. C. Lo, director (corporate communications and external relations), Link Asset Management Limited