A Vote Of Confidence
2014-06-27, Sophie He

British retail giant, Marks & Spencer, is to raise its portfolio in the HKSAR by opening new stores in the city this year.

Bruce Findlay, regional director for Asia at Marks & Spencer, told China Daily the company already has 15 stores in Hong Kong and, recently, it added two stand-alone food stores.

“We’re looking at new locations to open more stores in Hong Kong this year … both food stores and mainline stores (selling food and clothing) and even flagships like the one we have on Queen’s Road Central,” he said.

At present, he said international markets account for some 10 percent of Marks & Spencer’s total revenues, and Asia has been the group’s key overseas market as its growth rate is the fastest. Hong Kong has always been one of the group’s key strategic markets.

“Hong Kong is our Number One international market after Ireland — that’s how important Hong Kong is to us,” he said.

Findlay pointed out that he expects Marks & Spencer’s food business to grow faster than its apparel business in future as, currently, the company’s food business makes up about 25 percent of total sales in Hong Kong, while in the UK, its food business contributes half of the revenue.

“So, you can see the opportunity for us in an important overseas market like Hong Kong. We see a great opportunity and potential for growth in the food business.”

Asked whether the company is worried about the city’s retail market amid gloomy economic forecasts, Findlay said all markets do have ups and downs.

“Marks & Spencer has been here in Hong Kong for 25 years. We’ve seen a lot of changes (in terms of business environment) and we’ve adapted ourselves to those changes.”

Although it has been widely reported there are challenging conditions out there, the company’s businesses are still growing, said Findlay, adding that its businesses grew again last year not just because of new stores, but growth has been positive.

“We expect the market to be challenging (in the second half), but we have a strong local base. We don’t rely on any one consumer, and as our offer is so wide, we are better positioned for the challenge.”

Findlay said that apart from expanding in Hong Kong, the company plans to add more stores on the mainland.

“We’ve been on the mainland since 2008, Currently, we have 15 stores there, two of which were opened last year,” he said.

Findlay believed there are great opportunities on the mainland for the company, which plans to open a flagship store in Beijing and is looking for prime locations in Shenzhen and Guangzhou.

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