Shanghai Tang – the Nomad of Hong Kong
We’re on Hong Kong Island. We just took the peak tram up the 428-metre-high Victoria Peak where we have a great panoramic view over the city. I throw a coin into one of the binoculars and scan the buzzing city below us. On the other side of the bay there’s a ferry leaving the Star Ferry Pier taking commuters to the island. I scan the Knowloon skyline and see the Peninsula Hotel.
“Shall we have lunch at the Peninsula later?” Anouk asks, as if she can see what I’m looking at.
On this side of the bay I can see the landmark building of the Bank of China and follow a double-decker tram making its way towards the Happy Valley horseracing track. The ferry that left the mainland a few minutes ago is now approaching the port at Hong Kong Central.
“Hey, what’s that?” I ask. “There’s something that looks like tents on the roof of Pier 4.”
Anouk takes a look through the binoculars and focuses on the tents. “It looks like Mongolian tents,” she says. “Maybe they’re promoting a film.”
“Sure, Genghis Khan goes Hong Kong,” I joke. “Shall we go and take a closer look?”
We take the peak tram back down and make our way to the port. “Shall we have lunch at the Peninsula after we’ve been to the Mongolian Village then?” Anouk asks.
As we arrive at Pier 4 and walk up to the roof, we see a small Mongolian village on the rooftop.
We walk around and look at the fashion items that are on show in the various tents. “It’s not Genghis Khan,” Anouk says. “Look, it’s a Shanghai Tang store,” pointing at a display with the Shanghai Tang logo.
As we head for the Imperial Tailoring tent, a shop assistant asks us if she can be of any assistance. “We’re here to see Genghis Khan,” I joke. The shop assistant thinks for a few seconds, “Mister Khan is not here at the moment but our chairman is,” she says with a smile, pointing at a sharply dressed man speaking French into his iPhone.
“Anouk, let’s have a chat with him,” I say, when the man puts away his phone. “Monsieur, excusez-moi….”
I explain to him we’re from CoolBrands and that we’re making a trip Around the World in 80 Brands. “Would you tell us what’s happening here?” I ask.
“Nice to meet you, my name is Raphael Le Masne de Chermont. I’m the Executive Chairman of Shanghai Tang.”
“Great, we must be lucky to catch you here,” I say. “I suppose you’re not living in one of these tents.”
“Gers,” Raphael answers. “A Mongolian tent is called a Ger. And what you see here is a Shanghai Tang pop-up store. We closed our flagship store and our new one was only going to open four months later, so we thought we’d become nomads for two months.”
“So you decided to put down some tents on a roof on a pier,” Anouk says.
“We had quite some press coverage with it,” Raphael says, “and our customers really like the concept and the unique shopping experience they have here. But as soon as our flagship opens, we’ll close the village and our customers can enjoy another new experience.”
“I like that story,” Anouk says. “But what is a Frenchman doing in China?”
“Shanghai Tang was founded by David Tang as a Chinese luxury lifestyle brand in the nineties,” Raphael tells us. “Early this millennium, we at Richemont believed we could bring our knowledge of the luxury market to Shanghai Tang.”
“Of course, and it was also a great opportunity to learn about the Chinese market too,” I say.
“Of course,” Raphael replies, “it has been a very valuable experience for Shanghai Tang, and for me personally.”
“I have also seen something about Shanghai Tang restaurant and café,” Anouk says. “Have you created any more brand extensions?”
“Fashion, cafés and restaurants, for the moment,” Raphael says. “But the fact is that we’re a young brand and we’re not limited by a traditional brand identity. We have some new ideas on the shelf just waiting for the right time.
“Talking about time,” Raphael continues, “maybe it’s time to have some lunch. Would you like to join me at the Peninsula?”
“Well,” Anouk says. “Let me think about it for two nanoseconds. Okay, let’s do it!”
© 2012 CoolBrands – Around the World in 80 Brands
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