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Hong Kong chain thrives on uniqueness

In an era when traditional department stores struggle to remain relevant, a Hong Kong chain is succeeding because it dares to be different.

Yata has just reported a sales increase of 26 per cent in the first eight months of trading.

It specialises in Japanese-sourced merchandise – and will soon diversify into ranges from Korea, cashing in on the growing Asian appreciation of Korean fashion, music, TV and culture. It will host a weeklong Korean food fair this week.

Yata, now a subsidiary of Sun Hung Kai Properties, was established back in 1990 in Shatin as Seiyu and rebranded into Yata Department Store in 2008, adopting the new mission statement “Quality shopping at Modern Japanese Lifestyle Department Store”.

It now boasts seven stores in Shatin, Tai Po, San Po Kong, Tsuen Wan, Tuen Mun, Mongkok and – as of this week – Kwun Tong. While most upmarket Hong Kong retail operators tend to rely on visiting tourists from mainland China for sales growth, Yata derives 82 per cent of its sales from locals.

CEO Daniel Chong Wai-chung says sales in the first week of October were up 24.9 per cent year on year.

The newest store in Kwun Tong will be a step above the existing network, featuring new departments such as an Italian deli counter and a coffee shop. Chong hopes the average spend at the store will be about 50 per cent higher than the existing network average of HK$100 (US$13).

Yata believes Hong Kong can accommodate five more Yata stores, but has not revealed a timeline for the expansion. He has no plan to enter mainland China.

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