By  on September 30, 2005

HONG KONG — Japanese department store Sogo opens its second branch in Hong Kong today, in the Kowloon tourist district of Tsimshatsui (TST).

The store, which has total floor space of 115,000 square feet, is about one-quarter the size of Sogo's 20-year-old flagship in Causeway Bay. That store is Hong Kong's largest and most successful department store.

The store's parent company, Lifestyle International Holdings, also operates the Jiu Guang department sore in Shanghai. The company spent 100 million Hong Kong dollars, or $12.9 million, on interior decoration and renovation works on the two-story unit. Lifestyle also signed a tenancy agreement that includes a 15-year lease with an option to renew for a further five years.

Sogo TST will not carry household goods, electronics, or children's wear, but instead will feature 150 international fashion, cosmetic, accessories and food brands. The emphasis on Japanese fashion is decisive and strategic, according to Eliza Lo, deputy store manager of Sogo Hong Kong. "We believe that Japanese fashion can best cater to the Asian market because of its excellent cutting and design," she said, adding: "It cannot be replaced by products from the United States or even South Korea."

Sogo TST will carry mostly trendy fashions aimed at a young market. The mix includes 10 brands new to Hong Kong, among them Sweet Years, Ba-tsu Club, Rosebullet, Nara Camicie and Enrico Coveri's secondary line, You Young Coveri. The heavy Japanese presence is seen in such locally popular brands as Super Lovers, which features Japanese cartoon characters, and Ki La Ra, the Hello Kitty fashion and accessories line.

Other brands with corners or in-store boutiques include Levi's, Bruno Magli, Burberry, Dunhill Sport, Calvin Klein Underwear, Escada Sport and Anne Klein. The large cosmetics area includes most major brands, among them Chanel, Estée Lauder, Clinique and Lancôme. Doctor's Dermatologic Formula, a newcomer to Hong Kong, is also here.

Lo noted that tourists are expected to account for some 40 percent of traffic at Sogo TST. At the Causeway Bay branch, tourists make up about 25 percent of traffic. Such expectations result from the ever-increasing number of Mainland tourists to Hong Kong and the store's location next to two major museums and three hotels.The trouble is in making a notoriously difficult retail location work. Sogo TST is an underground store, connected to tourist sites via underground passageways. It is sited in what was once a mall and later a children's attraction called Teddy Bear Kingdom. Michelle Tsang, Sogo Hong Kong's marketing manager, said, "We've taken the whole space and we'll try our best to be more successful than the others."

The store opening comes one week after Lifestyle International failed in its bid to purchase Lane Crawford House, a prime retail and office space in Hong Kong's Central district. The company's bid, which was between 2 billion Hong Kong dollars, or $258 million, and 2.3 billion Hong Kong dollars, or $296 million, drew criticism from shareholders concerned that Lifestyle was willing to empty its war chest. Despite such concerns, the company is making no secret of its desire for a third store in Hong Kong. "We just need to find the right location," confirmed Tsang.

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