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  • Closure of Ralph Lauren Hong Kong flagship won’t be the last

    Ralph Lauren’s sudden exit from its Causeway Bay flagship store last week is the latest high-profile fashion closure to have occurred or been flagged in 2016. American fast-fashion label Forever 21 has announced it will close its multi-storey Causeway Bay flagship store. British label Paul Smith closed its Times Square store and Abercrombie & Fitch is set to leave its prime location in the Pedder Building in Pedder Street, Central. Italian luxury clothing and accessories label Tonino Lamborghini also shut down more than 10 stores and in-store counters in the city earlier this year. Contacted for comment about its abandonment of the doubtless expensive space in the Lee Gardens, a representative of the brand said the closure was “part of our strategic and financial plan”, adding: “We are redeploying assets to focus on new concept stores and transition away from unprofitable formats and locations.” Ralph Lauren is “combining men’s and women’s flagships in the recently renovated Prince’s Building location, as well as remaining focused on providing our customers with the authentic style and luxury shopping experience they expect from us,” the spokeswoman said. The move is part of a new strategy from Stefan Larsson, who worked for Swedish fast-fashion retailer H&M for 15 years and who replaced Lauren as chief executive in late 2015 (Lauren remains executive chairman and chief creative officer). The restructuring will, according to reports, cut over 50 stores and 1,000 jobs worldwide and save the publicly traded company between US$180 million and US$220 million a year. Its share price has been under pressure in the past 12 months, twice falling below US$85. Ralph Lauren shares closed at US$108.19 on Monday, down more than 9 per cent on their US$119.59 close on December 7, 2015.

  • Tencent, Starbucks partner to offer quick mobile payment service

    Global leading coffee shop chain Starbucks partnered with Chinese internet giant Tencent to make WeChat mobile payment available in all its coffee shops in China, Tencent announced Thursday. Starting from Thursday, customers can pay by WeChat in about 2,500 Starbucks outlets across China, according to the strategic agreement inked by the two companies. Before this, customers could only pay in cash, bank cards or Apple pay. International accounting firm PwC revealed in a recent global survey that nearly one-third of Chinese respondents preferred mobile payment. Meanwhile, the two companies will roll out a digital gift-giving service on WeChat early next year, allowing WeChat users to send and receive Starbucks digital gifts and then cash in them at offline outlets. Starbucks will be the first retail brand to use the digital gift-sharing service, supported by the social network's 846 million monthly active users.

  • Amazon Go-es brick and mortar

    Amazon.com Inc has opened a brick-and-mortar grocery store in Seattle without lines or checkout counters, kicking off new competition with supermarket chains. Amazon Go, the online shopping company’s new 167-square-meter store, uses sensors to detect what items shoppers have picked off the shelves and sends a bill to their Amazon accounts if they do not replace them. The store marks Amazon’s latest push into groceries, one of the biggest retail categories it has yet to master. The company currently delivers produce and groceries to homes through its AmazonFresh service. Amazon Go is available now for employees of the company and is expected to be open to the public early next year, Amazon said. If tests are successful, Amazon plans to open more than 2,000 grocery stores, the Wall Street Journal reported. The company is considering other store formats, including one that would let drivers pick up goods at the curbside.

  • OnePlus to stick to online sales strategy

    Chinese smartphone maker OnePlus will stick to its online-only sales strategy, bucking the trend that has seen rivals such as Xiaomi and LeEco increasing focus on brick-and-mortar stores in India for higher volumes. It has also exited the lower-priced segment to focus on the premium space, demand for which it expects to jump in the next couple of years, CEO Pete Lau said. OnePlus will also look at increasing local production gradually, keeping pace with its forecast that India’s manufacturing scale could reach global levels in around five years. This strategy is also in stark contrast to its rivals’ moves to raise local manufacturing sharply. The world’s fastest growing smartphone market currently contributes a third to the company’s global revenue. The company’s latest launch OnePlus 3T — the ramped up version of its popular OnePlus 3 — will be made in India from next quarter onwards. A large part of the Indian demand for the device will be met locally. OnePlus had tied up with Foxconn for making the Rs 16,999 priced OnePlus X in India last year, but discontinued it after the production cost turned to be higher due to lower efficiencies than that achievable with contract manufacturers in China. OnePlus has since also decided to move out of the lower tier due to consumer feedback, and back into the premium segment, which has been its strong point and will now continue to be its core focus. The top executive expects demand for smartphones priced in the Rs 20,000-Rs 35,000 range — the segment in which OnePlus operates — to increase in a couple of years from now, an outlook that has underlined the company’s view that it should stick to premium priced devices. Its devices are priced Rs 27,999 upwards.

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