Case Study Attached Case study and answer the following Questions. Que 1: Analyze the competitive environment of the supermarket industry in Hong Kong and

Case Study Attached Case study and answer the following Questions.

Que 1: Analyze the competitive environment of the supermarket industry in Hong Kong and the competitive response of the two leading supermarket chains. Does the competition of the two leading chains’ parent companies in multiple market segments have an impact on the competitive environment?

Que 2: Analyze the strategic positions of PARKnSHOP and Wellcome in the market, and in particular, their bargaining power vis-a-vis suppliers and consumers. What are their keys to sustaining leadership in the market?

Que 3: What strategies did PARKnSHOP and Wellcome use to overcome the challenges posed by their competitors? Are there legal risks in pursuing such strategies with the Competition Ordinance in place? What is the impact on consumers when the supermarkets try to defend their market share?

Que 4: Should the international conglomerate enter the retail grocery market in Hong Kong? If so, what could it do to increase the chance of a successful and profitable entry? Mary Ho prepared this case under the supervision of Professor Yuk-fai Fong solely as a basis for class discussion. The authors introduced a
fictitious company ICL for case illustration purpose only. Cases are written in the past tense; this is not meant to imply that all practices,
organizations, people, places or facts mentioned in the case no longer occur, exist, or apply. Cases are not intended to serve as endorsements,
sources of primary data, or illustration of effective or ineffective handling of a business situation.

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of Science and Technology.

Last edited: 26 July 2015

YUK-FAI FONG
MARY HO

To Enter or Not to Enter: Competitive Environment of

Supermarkets in Hong Kong

In November 2014, international conglomerate ICL 1 was assessing the potential of entering the
retail grocery market in Hong Kong. ICL owned one of Europe’s major supermarket chains that
specialized in operating very large supermarkets known as hypermarkets. Since the 1970s, ICL had
grown rapidly and expanded into drugstores and convenience stores. In early 2014, it owned over 300
hypermarkets in 15 countries. ICL also operated sizable online grocery-delivery services in several
European countries. And it had strong private-label brands, with gross margins as high as 40%.

ICL’s interest in the Hong Kong supermarket industry was initially kindled by the plan of
Hutchison Whampoa, Ltd. (HWL) to sell its leading supermarket chain, PARKnSHOP, in August 2013.
Companies like U.S.-based Walmart, Japan-based AEON, China Resources Enterprises, and Australian
Woolworths Ltd. were among the eight invited bidders. However, in October 2013, HWL reversed
course and decided not to sell PARKnSHOP, saying that the sale would not deliver maximum value to
its shareholders. In 2012, PARKnSHOP’s annual revenue was HK$21.7bn, and its earnings before
interest, tax, and deprecation/amortization were HK$1.4bn.2 It was estimated that HWL could have
realized US$3bn—$4bn in the deal. 3,4

1 ICL is a hypothetical supermarket player created purely for teaching purposes and for hypothetical discussion in a
classroom environment.
2 Prudence Ho and Yvonne Li, “Buyer Show Appetite for Hong Kong’s PARKnSHOP,” Wall Street Journal, 21
August 2013, accessed December 2014.
3 “PARKnSHOP no longer for sale,” Hong Kong Business, 24 October 2013,
http://hongkongbusiness.hk/retail/news/parknshop-no-longer-sale , accessed November 2014.
4 US$1 = HK$7.8.

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Before embarking into new territory, ICL wanted an in-depth understanding of the Hong Kong
grocery market environment, competitors, and potential barriers to entry. ICL was aware that a new
Competition Law, which was expected to take effect in 2015, might have profound implications for the
grocery market landscape in Hong Kong. Some analysts said HWL’s decision to put PARKnSHOP up
for sale might have been motivated by the introduction of Competition Law, which could potentially
break the dominance of the leading supermarket chains. 5 With more rigorous enforcement against
cartels and abuse of substantial market power, would the law be effective in encouraging more
competition, thereby offering more opportunities for new entrants to enter the grocery market? Despite
all the uncertainties surrounding the effectiveness of the new legislation, ICL management hoped to
make a decision before the end of the financial year to allow sufficient time to move forward with the
plan or divert resources to other potential growth areas.

Grocery Market in Hong Kong

Grocery Market Landscape/Characteristics

Groceries included food (other than food sold for consumption on the premises), alcoholic and
nonalcoholic drinks, cleaning products, toiletries, and household goods. 6 As of December 2011, an
estimated HK$79.3bn7 of annual grocery sales were made in grocery outlets and convenience stores in
Hong Kong, with supermarket annual sales amounting to HK$41.3bn. 8 In 2011, there were 77
supermarket establishments (including convenience stores) in Hong Kong. 9

Grocery shopping could be categorized into two types, i.e., “one-stop grocery shopping,” and
“secondary shopping.” One-stop shopping was defined as shopping for the bulk goods needed for a
household’s periodic grocery needs, carried out in a single trip and in one store. Secondary shopping

5 Anuj Gangahar, “Hong Kong: PARKnSHOP sale worries Li Ka-shing watchers,” EUROMONEY, September 2013,
http://www.euromoney.com/Article/3254868/Hong-Kong-ParknShop-sale-worries-Li-Ka-shing-
watchers.html?copyrightInfo=true, accessed November 2014.
6 Foodstuff includes fish, livestock, poultry (fresh or frozen), fruits, vegetables, bread, pastry, confectionery, biscuits,
and other foods, per Hong Kong Consumer Council, “Grocery Market Study, Market Power of Supermarket Chains Under
Scrutiny,” 19 December 2013, p. 50, www.consumer.org.hk/competition/_issues/grocery/GMSReport20131219.pdf,
accessed November 2014.
7 Hong Kong Consumer Council, “Grocery Market Study, Market Power of Supermarket Chains Under Scrutiny,” p.
31.
8 Census and Statistics Department, “Key Statistics on Business Performance and Operating Characteristics of the
Import/Export, Wholesale and Retail Trades, and Accommodation and Food Services Sectors in 2011,” January 2013.
9 In Hong Kong, the Census and Statistics Department classified supermarkets as establishments that “engage(d) in the
retail sales of general provisions including a variety of food-stuffs as one of the major items” and that “use(d) self-serving
retail method.” They therefore also included conventional supermarkets and convenience stores. Conventional supermarkets
were those retail stores selling general provisions, including a great variety of foodstuffs as the majority, and were self-
service. Convenience stores were those small, retail self-service stores selling a moderate number of fast-moving food and
nonfood items, usually with extended hours of operation, generally easily accessible, and often located along busy roads or
at petrol stations. (Source: Census and Statistics Department, “Key Statistics on Business Performance and Operating
Characteristics of the Import/Export, Wholesale and Retail Trades, and Accommodation and Food Services Sectors in
2011,” January 2013.)

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http://www.euromoney.com/Article/3254868/Hong-Kong-ParknShop-sale-worries-Li-Ka-shing-watchers.html?copyrightInfo=true

http://www.euromoney.com/Article/3254868/Hong-Kong-ParknShop-sale-worries-Li-Ka-shing-watchers.html?copyrightInfo=true

http://www.consumer.org.hk/competition/_issues/grocery/GMSReport20131219.pdf

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typically involved instant consumption and generated lower average spending per basket. 10 For
instance, the majority of purchases made at convenience stores were secondary shopping.
Supermarkets, in general, provided a one-stop grocery experience by offering a wide range of foodstuff
and household necessities. Hence, they competed with different categories of shops. In the market for
fresh produce and packaged food, supermarkets in Hong Kong competed with wet markets. In the
market for household products and necessities, supermarkets in Hong Kong competed with retail outlets
such as drugstores and personal care chain stores.

Grocery Shopping Behavior

Shopping at grocery retail outlets was a daily activity for many consumers in Hong Kong, partly
due to the Chinese tradition of cooking fresh produce. Hong Kong consumers were therefore inclined
to patronize the outlet that was most convenient or closest geographically. According to a survey of
household shopping behavior by the Planning Department in 2005, most Hong Kong households
(95.2%) normally purchased food in their district of residence, with 68.7% patronizing food stores near
home (i.e., within 10 minutes’ walking distance or 500 meters). Also, 97.4% of households normally
purchased general household goods from stores inside their district of residence, with 76.6%
patronizing stores near home. 11

Consumers in Hong Kong usually shopped for groceries frequently, not only because of their
preference for fresh food but also because of the difficulty or inconvenience of making bulk purchases.
Unlike consumers in many Western economies, most consumers in Hong Kong traveled to grocery
outlets by foot instead of by car. The car ownership rate in Hong Kong was very low compared with
other advanced economies. 12 For every 1,000 people in Singapore and London, there were 100 and 300
cars, respectively. In Hong Kong, there were only 63.13 Insufficient household space was also a factor
that affected Hong Kong consumers’ grocery shopping behavior. Hong Kong was a compact city with
an average living space of only 13 square meters per person as of March 2014.14 By comparison, the
average living space per person was about 40–50 square meters in the richest economies (e.g., in
Scandinavia) and usually 20–30 square meters in Central Europe. 15 The small average living space in
Hong Kong made it difficult for general households to store a large amount of food and grocery
necessities at home.

10 Ibid, p. 4.
11 Ibid., p. 36.
12 As of 2013, there were 501,021 registered private cars in Hong Kong.
13 Chi-fai Cheung, “Private car fleet passes 500,000,” South China Morning Post, 4 May 2013,
http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/article/1229525/private-car-fleet-passes-500000-mark, accessed December 2014.
14 Hong Kong Housing Authority, “Housing in Figures 2014.”
15 Helgic Analytics, “Housing Stocks,” http://www.helgilibrary.com/indicators/index/housing-stocks-sqm-per-person,
accessed December 2014.

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The Hong Kong Supermarket Industry

The first conventional supermarket16 in Hong Kong opened in the 1950s. At that time, high-income
citizens or foreigners were the target customers; supermarkets were not popular among locals.17 In the
1970s, supermarkets began to gain popularity in every household, especially after they obtained the
necessary government permission to sell rice. 18 In the 1980s, PARKnSHOP and Wellcome established
their positions as market leaders. After a fierce price war, a number of small-scale supermarkets were
forced out of the market.

In 1996, there were approximately 1,050 supermarkets and convenience stores in operation, about
14 times the number in 1976.19 The number of stores increased more rapidly between 1978 and 1985,
with an annual average growth rate of 26%. The rapid growth was partly attributable to the emergence
of convenience stores during the period. However, from the mid-1980s to 1996, the average growth
rate slowed to 4% per annum. 20

Major Players in the Supermarket Industry

Chain operation was a predominant feature of the supermarket industry. Since the 1980s,
PARKnSHOP and Wellcome had remained the dominant players in the Hong Kong supermarket
industry. Not only did they outperform their competitors in terms of number of stores, but they also
captured dominant market shares. In 2013, PARKnSHOP and Wellcome accounted for about 75% of
all supermarket turnover in Hong Kong.21 The third and fourth players, i.e., CR Vanguard Shops and
DCH Food Mart, did not come close to the two market leaders in terms of number of stores and market
share.

Wellcome

Founded in 1945, Wellcome was the first supermarket chain in Hong Kong. It was owned by
Jardine Matheson Holdings (JMH) via its Dairy Farm subsidiary. The majority of JMH’s businesses
were in Asia, including subsidiaries like Jardine Pacific, Jardine Motors, Jardine Strategic, Mandarin
Oriental Hotel Group, and Hongkong Land. In November 2014, the supermarket chain had over 280

16 Please refer to footnote 9 for the definition of a conventional supermarket.
17 K. C. Mun, “Opportunities for supermarket development in Hong Kong,” Journal of The Chinese University of Hong
Kong 11, no. 11 (1974); and H. Or, “Customer Satisfaction and Market Segmentation of Hong Kong Supermarket Industry,”
City University of Hong Kong, 2004.
18 W. L. Cheung and K. T. Fang, “The comparison of shopper purchasing behaviour and demographic profiles of two
supermarket giants: A Hong Kong Perspective,” BRC, Hong Kong Baptist College, May 1994, pp. 2–4.
19 Census and Statistics Department, “Operating Characteristics and Business Performance of Supermarkets,” Hong
Kong Monthly Digest of Statistics, March 1997, http://www.censtatd.gov.hk/hkstat/sub/sp320.jsp?productCode=FA100204,
assessed November 2014.
20 Ibid.
21 USDA Foreign Agriculture Service, “Hong Kong Retail Food Sector Annual 2014,” 18 March 2014, p. 10.

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stores in Hong Kong. 22 Wellcome was the first supermarket to establish a home-delivery service
division. “Wellcome Delivers On-line” was especially designed by Wellcome for customers using its
online shopping services. Free delivery was provided for each order over HK$500. Wellcome’s parent
company Dairy Farm began introducing high-end supermarket brands to Hong Kong in 2007. Stores
carrying the following brands were opened to capture an upscale market:23
 Jason’s MarketPlace was a lifestyle supermarket catering to discerning consumers seeking

quality gourmet groceries, fine wines, and top-brand health and beauty products.
 Oliver’s was Hong Kong’s premier fine wine and food store, offering consumers a wide array

of quality gourmet food and wines from around the world.
 ThreeSixty was Hong Kong’s largest organic and natural food store. It boasted an extensive

range of healthy foods, as well as environmentally friendly household and personal care
products.

PARKnSHOP

Supermarket Chain PARKnSHOP was a member of the A.S. Watson Group (ASW), a wholly
owned subsidiary of Hutchison Whampoa Limited (HWL). The HWL Group mainly operated
businesses related to properties and hotels, retail, ports, and related services. PARKnSHOP opened its
first store in Stanley, Hong Kong, in 1973. By November 2014, PARKnSHOP operated more than 260
stores in Hong Kong. 24 Its website PARKnSHOP Online allowed customers to place orders online. 25
Home delivery was free for a purchase of HK$500 or more. PARKnSHOP store was the group’s
mainstream brand. To target different customer segments, it also operated some upscale stores under
different brand names. Some of the higher-end stores operated by PARKnSHOP were lifestyle food
stores, which offered a variety of imported goods to target middle- and upper-class customers. For
example:26
 International by PARKnSHOP was an international supermarket concept that provided the

different flavors of East and West and catered to international Asian and Western customer
segments.

 Taste was an international Asian superstore concept that provided customers with a “More than
Food” shopping experience.

 Fusion by PARKnSHOP was an international superstore concept that combined fresh produce
with a wide selection of Western delicacies.

PARKnSHOP also operated Gourmet Food Hall, Great, SU-PA-DE-PA, “滋味佳” Japanese and
Korean snack specialty store, Express, and PARKnSHOP Frozen Food. PARKnSHOP set up its first

22 Wellcome, “About Wellcome,” http://www.wellcome.com.hk/wd2shop/en/html/corporate/company-profile/about-
wellcome.html, accessed November 2014.
23 Dairy Farm Group, “Our Businesses—Supermarkets and Hypermarkets,” http://www.dairyfarmgroup.com/Our-
Businesses/Supermarkets-and-Hypermarkets, accessed November 2014.
24 PARKnSHOP, “About PARKnSHOP,”
http://www.parknshop.com/WebShop/JumpPage.do?comeFrom=MenuContent&menuId=100001&parentsId=100000,
accessed November 2014.
25 PARKnSHOP, “PARKnSHOP.com online store,” http://www.parknshop.com/WebShop/LoginPage.do, accessed
November 2014.
26 PARKnSHOP, “About PARKnSHOP.”

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http://www.wellcome.com.hk/wd2shop/en/html/corporate/company-profile/about-wellcome.html

http://www.dairyfarmgroup.com/Our-Businesses/Supermarkets-and-Hypermarkets

http://www.dairyfarmgroup.com/Our-Businesses/Supermarkets-and-Hypermarkets

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Japanese and Korean snack specialty store “滋味佳” in August 2014, and it had plans to establish about
50 stores in Hong Kong.27

CR Vanguard

The distant, third-ranking supermarket chain in Hong Kong was CR Vanguard. The supermarket
chain was owned by the China Resources Group (CRG), a Chinese state-owned conglomerate. The
group’s main business was importing mainland Chinese products (including energy) to Hong Kong.
CRG also controlled China Resources Ng Fung Limited (CR Ng Fung), the biggest frozen and fresh
food wholesaler in Hong Kong. CR Ng Fung strived to become the leading brand in the fruit and
vegetable market in China. CR Vanguard closely collaborated with CR Ng Fung to build the authentic,
vertically integrated industry chain from the source to the retail store. 28

The CR Vanguard supermarket chain set up its first store in Hong Kong in 1984 and expanded to
operate about 95 stores in Hong Kong by November 2014.29 While CR Vanguard carried a variety of
products from different countries, a major portion was sourced from Mainland China.30 CR Vanguard
did not offer an online shopping channel in Hong Kong.

DCH Food Mart

Established in 1992, DCH Food Mart was the retail arm of Dah Chong Hong Holdings Limited, a
conglomerate parented by CITIC Pacific. CITIC Pacific was 58% owned by the state-owned CITIC
Group in Beijing. DCH Food Mart was the fourth-largest food retailer in Hong Kong. It had also
become the market leader in the frozen food specialty chain store market in Hong Kong. 31 DCH Food
Mart provided various types of frozen seafood, meat, poultry, dried seafood, and basic groceries
sourced globally. A new store format was launched in 2007. DCH Food Mart Deluxe was a premium
specialty store, providing a full range of international gourmet food and imported fresh fruits and
vegetables. In 2014, the chain had over 90 stores in Hong Kong, with a number located near wet
markets. 32,33 DCH offered an online shopping channel through its “DCH Food Mart Deluxe—Gourmet
Delivery Service” website, which provided customers a convenient, one-stop shopping experience. 34
DCH Holdings Limited had over 60 years of experience in the food business and had expanded into
food manufacturing, distribution, and retailing, forging a total food supply chain. In upstream food

27 “狙擊阿信屋? 百佳謀設 50 家「滋味佳」零食店,” Apple Daily,
http://hk.apple.nextmedia.com/realtime/finance/20140811/52782970, 11 August 2014, accessed November 2014.
28 China Resources Ng Fung, “Main Business,” http://www.nfh.com.hk/en/business/ , accessed November 2014.
29 China Resources Vanguard Co., Ltd., “发展历程 (Development History),”
http://www.crv.com.cn/CRV/chinese/about/course, accessed November 2014.
30 USDA Foreign Agriculture Service, Hong Kong Retail Food Sector Annual 2014, 18 March 2014, p. 10.
31 Ibid.
32 China Resources Ng Fung, “Main Business,” http://www.nfh.com.hk/en/business/, accessed November 2014.
33 USDA Foreign Agriculture Service, Hong Kong Retail Food Sector Annual 2014, p. 10.
34 Dah Chong Hong Holdings Limited, “DCH Food Mart Deluxe—Gourmet Delivery Service,”
http://www.eshop.dchfoodmartdeluxe.com, accessed November 2014.

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http://www.nfh.com.hk/en/business/

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http://www.nfh.com.hk/en/business/

http://www.eshop.dchfoodmartdeluxe.com/

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manufacturing, it offered frozen and chilled food products as well as tea and coffee blending. In
midstream food trading, it distributed food commodities and represented international fast-moving
consumer goods brands.35

Other Supermarket Players

Other supermarket operators in Hong Kong included AEON Stores, YATA, City’Super, Sogo,
UNY, and Kai Bo Food Supermarket. Other than Kai Bo, these Japanese lifestyle stores carried an
extensive range of imported products with a variety of items sourced from Japan and other countries.
They attracted many middle-class customers and expatriates who were receptive to higher-priced
imported products. Since most of these supermarkets were part of Japanese department stores, many
were located in commercial and tourist districts rather than residential areas. Kai Bo featured frozen
products, with most of the food supplies coming from China or Southeast Asia.36 [Exhibit 1 shows the
number of supermarket retail chains in Hong Kong in 2003 and 2013.]

Convenience Stores

In 2013, there were over 1,300 convenience stores in Hong Kong. 37 Convenience stores operated
round the clock and were relatively small. Since they offered a limited selection of products at less
competitive prices, most purchases were for convenience, i.e., goods normally bought in small
quantities for instant consumption. Consumers often considered convenience stores as fill-in stores, i.e.,
filling the void when other retail stores were closed, unavailable, or unreachable. A number of
convenience stores in Hong Kong had set up hot food counters offering Hong Kong traditional snack
food. Some convenience stores operated jointly with gasoline stations, where select grocery items were
sold in bulk packages, targeting consumers with cars.

Seven Eleven, Circle K, and VanGo were three leading convenience store chains in Hong Kong. 38
The leading chains had close business connections with leading supermarkets. Seven Eleven was a
sister company of Wellcome, while VanGo was owned by CR Vanguard. Circle K was owned by
Convenience Retail Asia Limited (CRA), which was a subsidiary of Li & Fung, a global sourcing firm
and one of the largest retailers in Hong Kong.

Personal Care Chain Stores and Drugstores

Some drugstores and personal care chain stores in Hong Kong sold selected, popular grocery items,
primarily snacks and drinks, to drive store traffic. Mannings and Watsons were two leading personal
health and beauty retailers in Hong Kong, offering an extensive range of pharmaceutical, health care,

35 Dah Chong Hong Holdings Limited, “Business Profile,”
http://www.dch.com.hk/english/about_dch/dch_group/corp_profile/profile/index.php, accessed November 2014.
36 USDA Foreign Agriculture Service, Hong Kong Retail Food Sector Annual 2014, p. 13.
37 Ibid., p. 12.
38 Ibid., p. 12.

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personal care, skin care, and baby care products. They also carried a limited selection of snacks and
packaged food products. Mannings belonged to the Dairy Farm Group, while Watsons was part of the
A.S. Watson Group. Hence, the two leading personal health and beauty retailers were closely connected
to the two leading supermarket chains in Hong Kong.

Wet Markets

Wet markets 39 in Hong Kong generally offered a wide choice of fresh meat, seafood, vegetables,
and fruits. Since fresh produce was common in Chinese cooking, wet markets played an important role
as an outlet for fresh provisions; some residents visited markets daily to buy fresh food. Many of Hong
Kong’s wet markets were publicly owned and maintained by the Hong Kong government under the
Housing Department and the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department. In this regard, the Hong
Kong government played a key role in maintaining wet markets and had acted to improve public wet-
market facilities. Some new public wet markets were built with air-conditioning and provided a more
hygienic and pleasant environment than the previous ones. Many stalls were equipped with freezers
and chilling equipment to maintain food quality. A Hong Kong Planning Department survey in 2005
revealed that 74% of the respondents normally purchased food from wet markets and 25.4% from
supermarkets.40 Consumers who preferred wet markets indicated that they were more conveniently
located and offered fresher food and a wider variety of food at low prices. Another report observed
that wet markets still maintained a significant share of the fresh food sector, but there were indications
of a gradual decline in consumer patronage. 41 Even though sales for …

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