Sportswear retailer sells online but still needs his shop in Mong Kok

Yet businesses insist they need to keep some physical retail presence for customers

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 03 June, 2014, 2:18pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 04 June, 2014, 3:55am

Small sportswear retailer Jimmy Wong Man-fai started to offer online shopping in 2005 as soaring rents forced him to scale down his shop in Mong Kok.

Wong had to make the switch in his business strategy when Ginza Plaza, the commercial building where he rented the shop, changed hands.

"The new landlord only offered a 15,000 square foot store, which was five times bigger than my original size, if I wanted to renew the lease. I rejected the offer immediately," Wong said. He used to pay HK$50,000 a month for his 3,000 sq ft unit.

Inspired by a loyal Guangzhou customer who asked him to offer his sportswear on Taobao, the mainland's biggest online shopping website, Wong decided to expand to online shopping.

Meanwhile, he moved to a 1,200 sq ft shop on the upper floor of Ginza Plaza, under a new lease.

Wong's online sales now make up about 20 per cent of his total sales.

"I keep the physical shop as my target customers still want to check out my products [in person], as the soccer T-shirts each cost HK$500 to HK$700. They want to feel the quality and to try on the tees, and compare notes on football games [with other customers]."

As the Fifa World Cup in Brazil kicks off on June 12, Wong is preparing to set up a pop-up store on June 13 at Sun Hung Kai Properties' (SHKP) flagship APM mall in Kowloon East to capitalise on what will be the biggest football event in the world.

Maureen Fung Sau-yim, general manager of SHKP's leasing department, said online shopping is a new trend but is unlikely to replace physical shops.

"Malls offer a pleasant shopping experience to shoppers that online cannot provide," Fung said.

An SHKP poll of 800 shoppers last year indicated only 1.2 per cent of them had made online transactions, with most of them just surfing or conducting research on the net.

In a competitive retail sector, Fung said, malls have to upgrade their hardware, revamp the trade mix and offer an array of entertainment to keep shoppers staying longer and spending more.

Last year, she said, APM organised 1,300 events, 20 per cent more than in 2012.

"APM is planning to broadcast 64 [World Cup] matches live," she said. She expects sales to reach as much as HK$350 million during the 32 days to July 14 and attract up to 10 million visitors to the mall.