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Hong Kong economy

Hong Kong Records to close shops at Pacific Place and Harbour City, marking end of era in city’s music scene

Owner Siu King-chin blames steady losses over the past three years for the closure, the latest blow to the city’s bricks-and-mortar music stores

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 June, 2018, 9:01am
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 June, 2018, 3:46pm

An institution of Hong Kong’s music scene that counts former governor Chris Patten, ex-No 2 official Rafael Hui Si-yan and fashion magnate Dickson Poon as customers will close its doors for good next week because of heavy losses and a bleak outlook, its owner said on Wednesday.

After 29 years in business, Hong Kong Records in Admiralty will close on June 27 while the firm’s other store at Harbour City in Tsim Sha Tsui is expected to follow soon after, Siu King-chin said.

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“Everything has an end,” Siu, 70, said. “We have lost money in the past three to four years, and the operating environment was particularly difficult in the past 10 months. There is no future in the industry.”

About 20 employees will lose their jobs because of the closures, he said, while 4,000 loyalty club members will also be affected.

The shutdown is another blow to the city’s bricks-and-mortar music shops, which have been squeezed by the growing popularity of streaming websites and music sharing apps in recent years following a long battle against privacy.

Siu, a violinist, opened his first store in a 200 sq ft space at Pacific Place shopping centre in 1989. It was first called Do Re Mi before he changed it to Hong Kong Records. In its heyday in the early 2000s, the company had three stores – in Pacific Place, Festival Walk in Kowloon Tong, and Harbour City in Tsim Sha Tsui – with a total floor space of about 20,000 square feet.

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“The [Pacific Place] store has witnessed ups and downs in the past few decades, the Tiananmen crackdown, the handover of sovereignty, a couple of financial crises and the Occupy movement,” Siu said.

The Pacific Place store still had an inventory of more than 10,000 CDs, DVDs and vinyl records, and Siu had yet to figure out what do with such a backlog.

“Don’t ask me this question. I will need to resolve the whole thing step by step,” Siu said, laughing. “If I thought about it too much, I wouldn’t have folded the stores.”

Despite the stores’ demise, he said he was still proud of his role as a pioneer in the business, establishing himself before industry heavyweights Tower Records and HMV arrived in the city in the 1990s. Tower Records went bankrupt in 2006 and HMV changed hands in 2013.

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Among the millions of customers to have walked the aisles in Siu’s shops, more than a few stand out. The former boss of Chinese conglomerate Citic, Larry Yung Chi-kin, once called Siu to order all of the latest CDs and DVDs on classical music and opera. Siu sent “two to three cardboard boxes”, more than 200 items, to Yung, who just paid for all of them sight unseen.

“Rafael Hui was a regular and rarely walked out of the store empty-handed,” Siu said.

Hui, who is serving a 7½-year jail sentence after being convicted of corruption charges in 2014, was an avid music collector. It was revealed in court that he spent HK$200,000 (US$25, 500) in a single day on albums and amassed 10,955 recordings, mainly vinyl records of classical music that were auctioned off by liquidators after his conviction.

For other music lovers, the closing marked the end of an era. Andrew Lam, a manager in his 50s, was surprised when he was told Siu was closing up shop.

“It is a pity,” he said after spending about HK$600 for five records at the Pacific Place shop on Wednesday. “I visit this store quite often even though the prices are 5 to 10 per cent more than in Mong Kok. I quite like its atmosphere.”