About 20 years ago, Carrefour tried to expand into Hong Kong and were driven out (in part) because their prices were too low. Since then, no foreign supermarket chain has tried to challenge the ParknShop / Wellcome duopoly. But at least we have a bit more choice now, including products from UK supermarkets Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose.
Or there’s CitySuper, which is famous for its dizzyingly expensive Japanese fruit. OK, well maybe not.
Tesco have a joint venture with China Resources Enterprise (80% owned by CRE, 20% by Tesco) that arose from their disastrous foray into China. As part of that deal (signed in 2014), CRE’s Vanguard supermarkets in Hong Kong started stocking Tesco products.
Now some of the Vanguard stores have been re-branded as Uselect, with prominent displays of Tesco products (from their UK, Poland and Thailand stores) some at good prices.
Apparently it’s also 20 years since ParknShop started selling Waitrose products, and now a limited range is available in most of their stores. They also sell products from Casino (another French supermarket).
Oh, and earlier this year, Wellcome / Jasons Market added a range of Sainsbury's products.
Those low prices that got Carrefour into trouble? No-one is making that mistake again. Many products are sold at a significant premium (e.g. 3x UK price for cheese), but there are some bargains, so it’s worth shopping around (if you have the time). Even CitySuper can sometimes be cheaper than ParknShop.
Marks & Spencer has been in Hong Kong for nearly 30 years, primarily selling clothing, but with a small food selection (tinned, dried and also frozen products in a few stores).
They opened their first standalone food store here in 2010 (in Wan Chai) with a selection of fresh food (as the Daily Telegraph reported, er, four years later). Since then they have opened a few more of these standalone stores, and also added a range of fresh food in several of their bigger shops.
M&S announced one year ago that they would get rid of all their overseas stores, with the exception of Ireland, the Czech Republic (or is that Czechia?) and Hong Kong. And, yes, they have done this before, with Hong Kong surviving but with a cull of expat managers.
Then it emerged that they plan to transfer the Hong Kong business to the company that currently operates 46 M&S stores in Bahrain, Kuwait, Lebanon, Malaysia, Oman, Qatar, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates.