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Fall 2013
Hong Kong: Shoppers’ Paradise

Traditional markets? Check. Luxury designers? Check. This port city takes its shopping seriously and treasured finds await both the novice and veteran shopper.

What’s not to like about shopping in Hong Kong? It is duty-free, there is no sales tax and the shopping centers are air-conditioned. When it comes to retail, Hong Kong is New York City on steroids. Luxury goods makers such as Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Chanel, and Burberry have a strong presence here.

Hong Kong boasts of many markets: The Ladies’ Market, The Flower Market, The Temple Street Night Market, The Jade Market, and The Bird Market. Truly a shopper’s paradise!

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Mall Mania

There are several urban malls (e.g., Pacific Place, IFC, Langham Place) that attract vast crowds to their
200-plus stores and restaurants. Most of these vertical, urban giants have a labyrinth of covered above-ground walkways to avoid street level congestion and/or a subway connection that is a natural traffic feeder to the center. Strolling the malls is a favorite pastime here and especially in the warm humid climate the air conditioning is as much a draw as the luxury brand stores and fashionable restaurants. To serve the urban resident, several shopping centers have posh gourmet grocers on their basement levels that sell everything from meats and cheeses, to wine and spirits.

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Creative Kiosks

The shopping centers have vast center courts and wide walkways. Retail vending machines selling a variety of cosmetics are placed in high-traffic passages. One kiosk in Pacific Place was a jewel-box-like Christian Dior store that sold expensive ($4,000+) leather goods while the permanent store was being remodeled.

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Subway Stars

The MTR, Hong Kong’s subway system, is merchandised with some interesting local and regional retailers.

Tan’s, a one-of-a-kind grooming supply concept, is an exceptional example. While hairbrushes are not new to the specialty retail business, the way in which these are presented as “health and wellness products” is ingenious and easily transportable to the USA. The company has developed over 2,400 combs and brushes that are handcrafted in varieties of wood. It sells these as well as other Tan’s branded products in countries throughout Asia.

Fresh Line, another local retailer operating in the MTR subway retail district, is a fresh, handmade organic cosmetics line. The products are creatively displayed to entice the customer to buy. Superior customer service and product knowledge enhance the shopping experience.

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The Bold and the Beautiful

Revenue generated from advertising and indoor/outdoor media is significant. Spectacular billboards, column wraps and banners draw attention and drive sales. The locals devour media and consume it from their mobile phones to skywalk murals, to backlit ad panels in malls and building storefronts. Every place you can think of has advertising in your face.

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Rubber Ducky, You’re So Fine!

Not to be missed in Hong Kong is the giant inflatable duck (16.5-meters tall) in the Victoria Harbor near Kowloon. The giant duck has been a sensation and retailers, restaurants and hotels have marketed it to visitors. Copycat ducks have started popping up in several cities in mainland China by property developers who have rushed to install similar (albeit smaller) yellow ducks to draw potential customers to their new developments. A great leasing marketing tool in action! And, for Americans who want a giant rubber duck of their own, the mainland’s vast army of manufacturing firms has moved to meet the demand in typical Chinese style. Soon Hong Kong’s duck will appear in Pittsburgh, PA.

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Must-See Markets

Hong Kong’s markets have vendors that pop up like clockwork every day; close at designated hours and store their merchandise off premises only to reappear the next day. Watching the market materialize is more interesting than the product offerings. Years ago, the Hong Kong government legalized the merchants who sold on these streets and created a “hawkering zone,” which became known as The Ladies’ Market because of the quantity of women’s products sold there.

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One vendor in the crammed Jade Market (from whom I bought several pieces of jewelry) operates in seven locations within the same market, selling the same assortment. The multiple locations increase sales, allow for inventory interchange and create competition among salespeople. This is a true specialty market that offers an assortment of jade jewelry, accessories, Buddhas and home furnishings made from this precious stone.

Duffy C. Weir

Duffy Weir is the former vice president and director of specialty retail and marketing at The Rouse Company of Columbia, MD. Now an independent retail marketing and sponsorship consultant and writer, Weir travels the world searching for what she says "makes marketplaces tick." She can be reached at Duffyllc@comcast.net or 410.252.8885.
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