Thursday, March 1, 2012

Comin' Up! Abercrombie & Fitch in Hong Kong!

The four-story Abercrombie & Fitch Hong Kong ad, mounted on the neo-classical Pedder Building,
looks stunning...   |   Image by Patrick F.
The opening of any A&F location around the world is as exciting as the next. Arguably, however, the biggest opening of 2012 will be the upcoming Abercrombie & Fitch flagship store in Hong Kong (香港)! Everything surrounding it is epic…

A key city with a major regional influence in fashion and consumerism, beyond that of global finance, Hong Kong has been fittingly chosen as the place in which to initiate the entrance of the Abercrombie & Fitch brand into China (中国) – an ever growing behemoth of a market now accounting for over 25% of the planet’s consumption of luxury goods and projected to become the highest luxury consumer by 2015! Apart from lesser business restrictions than in mainland Chinese cities, Hong Kong in particular offers to successful upscale stores what those other cities on the mainland can’t…an even higher appeal and status to consumers on the mainland, and that is important for future expansion plans into the rest of the market. Furthermore, in China, it is a mark of high status if you, as a mainland resident, have the privilege to travel and enter Hong Kong and purchase high-end goods there whether or not there is that certain shop on the mainland. That’s despite the fact that purchases in Hong Kong come at about 20% less expensive than on the mainland due to an exemption in luxury goods taxes otherwise found throughout the rest of China.[source] The thing is that Hong Kong has this unique international flair, distinct from that of Shanghai (上海) and Beijing (北京), that is coupled with a higher degree of assured authenticity and quality within the minds of the Chinese. The city reported record sales in retail in 2010 of US$42 billion; and, with 23 million visits that year (a 25% increase from 2009), mainland Chinese accounted for US$13 billion in spending in Hong Kong.[source] The city is a mecca for shopping! And so that is the great allure of Hong Kong.

With all that in mind, Abercrombie & Fitch had to secure the most appropriate location in Hong Kong from which to showcase its aspirational image to the Chinese consumer. The Company also had to be fierce – no pun intended! – when it came to the matter because, with limited real estate, and a high density of already established luxury brands, Hong Kong is an intensely competitive field! Game began in early-2011 when a historic landmark structure, used for commercial practices, was offered for a bidding lease by Tai Kee Leong Co., Ltd…the Pedder Building (畢打行). Apart from being of great value and cultural appeal, the Pedder Building stands prominently on a corner of Pedder Street (畢打街) on prime ground in Hong Kong’s Central district – the heart of the city’s financial operations and offering the finest of retail. So naturally, a battle for the Pedder Building instantaneously ensued! Multiple companies entered the bidding battle, but, by March, it all came down between Abercrombie & Fitch and Shanghai Tang. Today owned by the Compaigne Financière Richemont (the second largest luxury goods group in the world), Shanghai Tang had been in the building since the 1990s and was trying to keep in. Nevertheless, in a sweeping move, Abercrombie & Fitch arose victorious and its win made news by April 2011. The result prompted a discussion on the soaring rates of rent in Hong Kong. A&F agreed to pay a record 270% increase for the Pedder Building of HK$7 million (or about US$902,602) to lease the 12,700 square foot (about 1,180 square meters) space consisting of the basement and ground floor previously occupied by Shanghai Tang. Apart from that, it has also been said that A&F will also be occupying the two upper levels over the ground floor…

With its rich heritage and aspirational global status as an icon of youthful high-quality fashion, Abercrombie & Fitch is the most suitable candidate to reinvigorate the appeal of the historic Pedder Building. Completed in 1924 by Palmer and Turner Architects, the Pedder Building is a historical remnant of the colonial days of Hong Kong. It was originally owned by So Shek Chung who soon sold it to Ng Wah in 1926. It was in that year when the German trading business Jebsen & Company, founded in Hong Kong in 1895 (three years after the founding of A&F in New York City in 1892), moved in. It wasn’t until the 1990s when Jebsen & Company moved out and Shanghai Tang moved in. Recognizing its aspirational ethos to purvey classic Chinese fashions, with all due respect, Shanghai Tang falls far short of matching the towering cultural significance of Abercrombie & Fitch considering historic and contemporary value. And after the bidding loss, so it was that Shanghai Tang exited its premises in October 2011… Enter Abercrombie & Fitch.

A Grade II structure of obvious historical importance to the heritage of Hong Kong, the Pedder Building has much to gain from the occupancy of A&F: they are the perfect match! After all, Abercrombie & Fitch is known for its quality restoration work on valued structures in world-class cities. The London flagship store itself is a Grade II structure and the notable buildings such as in Milan, Copenhagen, Paris, Madrid, and Brussels have all undergone magnificent restoration work which has brought them to their ultimate architectural grandeur in the 21st century. With the case of the Pedder Building, which is being proposed to Grade I status, it shall become another awe-inspiring jewel in the line-up of Abercrombie & Fitch flagship stores around the world and it will be a further landmark to the great city of Hong Kong!

The significance of this flagship for Abercrombie & Fitch is massive within both a history and business context and its grand opening is a much anticipated affair! Doors to A&F Hong Kong at No.12 Pedder Street will be opening in 2012, of course, and, as you can see in the picture above, the Company has begun advertising itself on Pedder Street with that towering poster on the side of the Pedder Building…

THE OPENING IS SET FOR AUGUST 11! DOORS OPENING AT 11:00! Are you ready to be a part of history?! Read (here) for more opening details and to view the countdown clock!

A limited-edition of the A&F Quarterly will be exclusively available for a select few customers of A&F Hong Kong on opening day! Read more on that (here)!

In the meantime, read even more insightful information on A&F Hong Kong (here) on The Sitch on Fitch!

For mainland Chinese: can not access Facebook? Check out the official A&F Weibo (A&F 新浪微博) for Chinese fans (here)!


The location of the upcoming A&F flagship on Hong Kong Island in Central. Click on image to expand.
Image by Google Earth used here for illustrative purposes only.


UPDATE (9 July 2012): A 2012 limited-edition of the A&F Quarterly is set to be made available exclusively for A&F Hong Kong! A&F's official Weibo page is also available.

UPDATE (30 JUNE 2012): Abercrombie & Fitch announced on its Facebook and Twitter pages the opening of A&F Hong Kong as being on August 11! History will be made!

UPDATE (8 JUNE 2012): A&F Hong Kong opens this August! This post has been revised to reflect this news.

UPDATE (15 MAY 2012): Abercrombie & Fitch is now taking employment applications for A&F Hong Kong!