The Wall Street Journal presents a great interview with with I.T. brand Founder Sham Kar Wai, discussing everything from the success of I.T’s brand management, why they decided to acquire brand ‘A Bathing Ape’ and managing a publicly listed company worth HK$8 billion in Asia. Its a fascinating read about the immense Asian fashion market that effects us all. You can read a selection of questions below and see the entire article here.
WSJ: In February, I.T acquired the Japanese brand A Bathing Ape. Why did you buy the brand, and what is your strategy to incorporate the brand with the company?
Mr. Sham: A Bathing Ape is one of our favorite brands and it’s been very successful in Hong Kong. But in Japan, the economy hasn’t been so strong, and the company’s finances weren’t doing so well. They had some problems with their cash flow. So we had a chance to acquire it and we think we can help it develop even better than before.
We first have to figure out how to make it profitable. Then after that, we can expand its product range and bring it to more international markets. The brand is already famous in America and Europe. Also, we think having an operation in Japan could help us bring some of our other concepts over to Japan. But not now, of course. We’re still dreaming about that. After we acquired, the earthquake happened.
WSJ: What are the unique challenges to managing a retail business in Hong Kong and China?
Mr. Sham: In Hong Kong, it’s the rent. In the rest of the world, where rent isn’t so high, people have more room to be creative. In Japan and Europe, you have very interesting stores, interesting concepts. But not in Hong Kong. There isn’t much creativity here. We have to pay high rent so stores are very commercial.
In China, the challenge is communication. In Hong Kong, we spread one message and we reach a lot of people. But in China, there are so many brands and advertising costs are three to four times more expensive in China.
The other challenge is the people. The service standards for our staff—I’m not satisfied. We have to spend more time to educate and train. And there’s a lot of competition for staff. Suddenly, everybody is opening stores, and so there’s a lack of good salespeople. This is the story of an expanding country—there is a manpower problem.
Source: Wall Street Journal