Proof, if it were needed, that Hong Kong desperately needs another outbreak of SARS comes in the form of a plan by Abercrombie & Fitch, American retailer of ugly overpriced jackets, to spend HK$7 million a month renting the Shanghai Tang premises in Central’s Peddar Building. I always thought the brand’s main claim to fame was its silly name, apparently dreamed up by the same cynical marketing team that invented Häagen-Dazs, whose umlaut, double ‘a’ and bizarre ‘zs’ were designed to give gullible English-speakers an impression of mysterious, authentic, centuries-old fine European ice-cream craftsmanship. The Standard, however, informs us that it is “known for its topless muscular salesmen,” which at least differentiates it from, say, Park N Shop.
It is hard to believe that just eight years ago, Hongkongers were peeling the surgical masks from their faces for the first time in weeks and finding that the air around them was of almost unnatural cleanliness. The city’s parasitical tourism industry had been temporarily and swiftly killed off, leaving hotels and the airport operating at maybe 10% of normal levels, tacky designer label outlets deserted, and the streets gloriously uncrowded. Among other miracles, property became more affordable than it had been for years.
Just a few droplets of the virus – just a few sneezes by a rogue civet cat in the right time and place – could transform the Big Lychee once again into such a quiet, clean, spacious, reasonably priced paradise. True, an outbreak could involve the deaths of several hundred people, but would it not be a small price to pay compared with the ongoing damage to our well-being inflicted by traffic fumes, ruinous living costs and all the rest? Imagine a Central in which Armani, Apple, Abercrombie, Agnes B and all the other lifestyle logos vacated their premises and the landlords had to cut the rents to what economists call ‘market-clearing’ level, perhaps low enough to attract family-run businesses selling basic things that people want, like noodles, groceries and cheap clothing identical to Abercrombie’s made-in-China stuff except without the label.
And we could erect a statue in Lan Kwai Fong, in part of the space formerly occupied by zoo-visiting mainlanders taking exotic animal photos of beer-swigging Westerners, dedicated to the SARS-CoV: Our Friend the SARS Virus. It would be a way of restoring the honour of this much-maligned little infectious agent. And as for the freed-up space in the Peddar Building, we could start up a research institute to find an answer to one of the most puzzling questions of our age: how do you clear enough revenue every month to pay HK$7 million rent, plus all the overheads like staff costs and homo-erotic advertising, and make a profit, just by selling nasty-looking clothes with nothing but embarrassing PR problems to recommend them?
Jealousy, thy name be Hemlock. For sour grapes make Chablis Chablis and Lafite LafiTTE.
It does seem likely that unless we have another outbreak of an infectious agent – which the glorious motherland could again keep initially quiet about – that nothing is going to stop the upward march of property prices.
The sub standard today breathlessly tells us about “Red Hot Lamma” where for a mere HK$3.3M you could be the proud owner of the top floor of a 700 sq.ft village house. FFS !
Surely being told Lamma is red hot is likely having your shoe shine boy giving you stock tips – a sure sign of a bubble about to break.
The only A&F stuff I’ve ever owned has been t-shirts bought for 30 bucks at those cheap garment shops. They all seem to have oodles of A&F stuff so dount this shop’ll get any local customers – then again not their target are we?
$7 million per month = $233k per day = $23k per hour of shop opening? This has to be clear profit after staff overheads. Not being one that frequents these outlets what prices do they charge to make this much to pay the rent?
The apartment next to us was $13m exactly a year ago. In 12 months it has remained unoccupied but sold twice, and yes gutted+renovated twice as well Now it is $22m and still no one wants to actually live there.
I am with Tiu Fu Fong on this one.
There is a very strong feeling of being on the last slow ratchety bit of the rollercoaster. We can still only see sky right now, but people that have been on one before know what comes next.
Hold on tight.
If you can’t tell who’s the pansy then it is probably you.
In the interests of accuracy, I must point out that the name Abercrombie & Fitch has a fairly long history (since 1892). When I was in grammar school back in the middle of the last century, the father of one of my classmates, an American gentleman, worked for the second incarnation under this brand as a buyer. In those days, they retailed sporting goods and toys.