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Clarks retailer S Culture ends year in the red

Clarks shoe brand retailer, S Culture has announced a loss for the year and will not pay a dividend.

Chairman Chong Hot Hoi described 2015 as the worst year for Hong Kong retail sales since  2002, driven by the fall in big spending tourists from the mainland and weak domestic consumer spending.

S Culture recorded a same-stores sales decline of 6.6 per cent and a net loss of HK$16.4 million for the year. Chong said the opening of new retail outlets during 2014 and early 2015 contributed to the loss, as they were yet to break even under the unfavourable atmosphere of the retail market during the year.

S Culture sells shoes under the Clarks, Josef Seibel, Petite Jolie and The Flexx retail brands in Hong Kong, Mainland China and Taiwan. It flagged a looming loss in a profit warning issued in early July.

But despite 2015 being a year to forget, the company is optimistic about 2016.

“Hong Kong is bracing for greater economic challenges as the prospective interest rate increase shall induce capital outflows that could pressure Hong Kong as the Asian financial hub at a time when China’s economy is growing at its slowest pace in the past 25 years,” said Chong in the company’s trading announcement.

“Looking ahead, the near-term outlook for retail sales will still be constrained by the weak performance of inbound tourism as cited by the government. We would also watch closely the impact from dimmer global economic prospects amid US interest rate normalisation. To this end, we had been imposing measures and applying more flexible operating tactics in order to minimise such effects to our operations as a whole. In the meantime, while there had been signs

that the general operating costs, such as market rental level, were declining, we were still cautious about the other operating costs such as staffing and utilities as their nature was downward sticky,” he said.

“Despite the above, we still remain positive and maintain our belief in our business. While we are still experiencing unfavorable market drivers in the local retail market, we are still confident that the group would be poised to be highly attentive to the changes in the retail market and apply the appropriate strategies to tackle the existing challenges and keep our pace for steady development, especially in the mainland. We still hold the same view about mainland consumer market and continue with our strategy to increase our presence in the mainland.”

S Culture has now expanded into the cities of Shanghai, Qinhuangdao, Haikou, Qingdao, Songyuan, Zhengzhou, Harbin, Luoyang, Dandong and Beijing through collaborating with the local retailers and operates four company-owned stores with its brands well-received in the mainland, Josef Seibel and The Flexx.

“We expect to increase our market share in the Mainland by utilising both on- and off-line channels whichever is more effective in the case.”

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