One of the 759 shops around Hong Kong that entice people to snack...
I have a friend who loves to eat snacks, be it chips, cookies and chocolate.
She once told me the best place to go in Hong Kong is called 759. I wondered why it was called these three numbers and now I know.
Coils Lam Wai-chun is the chairman of CEC International. The 55-year-old didn't have much education -- after finishing primary school he started working at a Japanese electronics company. After eight years he started his own small coils factory in a 100 square foot building in North Point when he was 20.
The company then expanded to Zhongshan with a factory there. By 1999, Lam had 10,000 people on his payroll and CEC International went public with the stock code 759.
But a few years later Lam's company began struggling due to the financial crisis, laying off about half his staff.
759 owner Coils Lam Wai-chun with his snacks
"At the time I was looking for a business that would help me keep about 4,000 employees on. I thought of opening wonton noodle shops, but dropped the idea as I found out there are a lot of trade secrets one needs to learn to successfully sell wonton noodles. I also thought of selling clothes, but could not find good suppliers," he said.
Then one day while eating potato chips, Lam had a realization. "I thought why not go into the snack business? Hong Kongers like to snack all the time, surely there's money in it. You can even find the name of the supplier on the back of these packets and I can call them up to order stocks."
He opened his first 759 shop in Kwai Chung and within three years has opened 147 stores. Lam hopes to have 180 by the end of this year.
What is also efficient is that Lam uses the same office and staff for the coils and snack business.
"The drivers who deliver the coils in the morning can deliver the potato chips and noodles to 759 shops in the afternoon. The Japanese salesperson who sells the coils in Japan can also meet the snack suppliers there on the same trip. They can also check the Japanese-language label on the snack pack," Lam explained.
This is how Lam manages to keep himself in business as well as his employees, as both coil manufacturing the selling snacks have thin profit margins. Being as efficient as possible is crucial.
Nevertheless business in 759 is very good -- making up 70 percent of his business, but he expects the ratio to go up to 80 percent.
759 also specializes in Japanese and Korean snacks at good prices -- with the most popular ones priced at HK$15, and so people are willing to indulge. After a tough day at work, why not a little cheap snack to make me happy?
Of course Lam doesn't talk about the resulting expanding waistlines and blood pressure and blood sugar shooting up; he would probably say that's none of his business...