Watsons stores lead 1000 openings for Hutchison

Watsons stores account for the bulk of more than 1000 new stores to be opened by parent CK Hutchison this year.

Hutchison said in its six month results released Friday it has added 257 stores to its global network already this year and 800 more would open by year-end. About two thirds of those will be Watson healthy and beauty outlets, mainly in China and Asia.

CK Hutchison had more than 12,600 stores across 25 markets at the end of June. The vast bulk of those are Watsons stores, but the group also operates Fortress electronics stores, supermarket ParknShop and Watsons Wines.

The group’s total retail revenue was HK$73.413 billion and net earnings were $5.338 billion, were all 2 per cent lower than the same period last year, results adversely affected by foreign currency translation to Hong Kong dollars.

“Despite strong growth in the health and beauty segment, the retail operations in Hong Kong experienced mounting pressure from the severely reduced tourist arrivals and spending in the first half, which dampened the growth in the overall retail division,” Hutchison said in its half-year report.

“In local currencies, revenue increased by 1 per cent, while EBIT increased by 2 per cent.”

The Watsons health and beauty business represents 94 per cent of the retail division’s net income, which grew 6 per cent in local currencies. In Europe, EBIT grew 11 per cent, reflecting a 4 per cent increase in store numbers, 3.6 per cent comparable-store sales growth and generally improving margins.

“In particular, health and beauty UK was a major growth contributor with an encouraging comparable store sales growth of 6.5 per cent for the period.”

In Asia, despite the comparable store sales declining 3.1 per cent, the organic expansion of stores continued with a 15 per cent increase in store numbers against the same period last year, resulting net EBIT growth of 3 per cent in local currencies.

“Watsons China’s total revenue was flat against the same period last year in local currency against a 17 per cent increase in stores numbers, as comparable store sales growth was negative 8.5 per cent due to weak retail market sentiment and competition from the eCommerce segment.”

Despite these difficult conditions, EBIT growth was 3 per cent “from well-executed margin and cost management”, the company said.

“Watsons China will continue to build up and expand its eCommerce platform to compete in the rapidly growing eCommerce segment.”

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