Monday, May 15, 2006

Market forces

For a city where the free market supposedly reigns supreme, the state of Hong Kong’s supermarkets is a sobering reminder that there is no such thing as fair competition.

It’s a truism that every 20 minutes of being in Hong Kong you are putting money in the pocket of one of the three or four large companies which own everything, from the mobile phones to the pharmacies to the cable TV to the supermarkets. Rumour has it that a major British supermarket chain tried to open in HK (as it has done successfully in other countries in the region, not least China) but was forced to close following price-fixing collusion by the two other main supermarkets which it couldn’t compete with.

Apart from the fact that they are either cheap and nasty, or horribly expensive, with nothing inbetween, the thing that annoys me most about Hong Kong’s supermarkets is that they are all named insultingly inaccurately:

· you can’t park at Park’N’Shop;
· GREAT isn’t (Great);
· Gourmet isn’t for gourmets (indeed for some reason they sell toothbrushes as well as food);
· City Super isn’t (Super); and
· you don’t get much of a welcome at Wellcome.



Depends what you mean by super. I thought City Super was fab, if expensive. It's by far the best of the bunch, although Park'N'Shop has a pretty good chocolate selection. Ah, how I miss that chocolate and sweetie aisle...

Chris said...

The supermarket was Carrefour (which is French), and the story was that the big supermarkets didn't like their suppliers supplying a supermarket that charged less than they did.

Result - Carrefour closed their 3 stores and exited HK.

Presumably they don't have any problem with their suppliers supplying City Super, who charge higher prices. It must also help City Super to have strong links with a property developer...

LottieP said...

Thanks for stopping by, Chris. I'd heard (from someone who works on the supply side of their business, which of course is based in Hong Kong) that it was Tesco.

I saw today in Central that Marks & Spencer are beefing up their food hall. Happy middle class news of course, but what are the piss poor HK supermarkets going to do about it?