Mon, Dec 22, 2003 - Page 11 News List

At 101, the upscale Jasons fills a supermarket niche

By Amber Chung  /  STAFF REPORTER

Alex Tay, chief executive officer of Wellcome Taiwan Co, speaks about competition in the supermarket business.

PHOTO: GEORGE TSORNG, TAIPEI TIMES

Taipei Times: How has Jasons performed so far?

Alex Tay (鄭朝豐): Sales at Jasons have exceeded our expectations in the month following our grand opening on Nov. 14. While prices per unit at Jasons are higher than at Taiwan's other supermarkets, we have drawn up to 4,000 customers a day, with an average amount spent of around NT$300 per person. We think business at Jasons will continue getting better. We are targeting people who live in the greater Taipei area as our customers, not just white-collar employees working in the Hsinyi district.

TT: Japanese-style supermarkets have long dominated this sector in Taiwan. Why do you think that Jasons can stand out and achieve first-year sales of more than NT$500 million?

Tay: Despite strong, long-term influences from Japan, we see a big niche market for new conceptual supermarkets like Jasons to develop here in Taiwan. While it's not an easy job to run a supermarket that sells quality goods at higher unit prices, we do have some relevant experience -- including running Jasons in Singapore for more than 30 years and Oliver supermarket in Hong Kong for more than 20 years. In addition, as part of Dairy Farm International Holdings Ltd, we are the only Western-style supermarket in town, not to mention that our location at Taipei 101 is perfect.

TT: Following the acquisition of rival Huey-Yang Co's (惠陽) 22 Kayo supermarkets in January, how many Wellcome outlets do you have now? Do you still plan to open 200 outlets by 2005?

Tay: We launched our first Wellcome store in Taiwan in 1987 and expect to open our 155th outlet by the end of this year. And we will definitely open as many outlets as possible, mainly in northern Taiwan. We plan to open larger stores in the south instead of the small stores you now see in the north. Our edge in outlet locations greatly benefits our business. It is not easy to find ideal locations to open new outlets. Thanks to our early entrance into the market, we have more than 130 stores solely in the greater Taipei area, the most prosperous business region in the country.

TT: Why have different store formats?

Tay: Every industry has to keep changing over time, including the supermarket sector. That's why we have set up different store formats. Apart from the exclusive Jasons and the conventional Wellcome stores, we have developed other store formats -- Super Store and Wellcome Plus. Super Store features a higher proportion of fresh produce while Wellcome Plus boasts over 300 items of imported produce. We've opened two Super Stores in Taipei and one more will be launched by the end of the year. As for Wellcome Plus, we have launched several such outlets in Tienmu, Yangmingshan and Ilan's Lotung, where many foreign missionaries live. Before bringing in Jasons here, we were developing Wellcome Plus on an experimental basis and this format was well received by foreign communities.

TT: Will traditional markets gradually disappear and be replaced by supermarkets in Taiwan and other Asian countries?

Tay: Instead of disappearing, traditional markets will continue to survive, as we have seen in Kong Kong and Singapore. Traditional markets are part of Asian culture. This also applies to Taiwan, where up to 80 percent of female customers still think traditional markets offer the freshest produce.

Even so, we still wanted to bring the Super Store format here because we aim to offer a cleaner location that provides produce as fresh as that in traditional markets. I believe the Super Store format will be the trend of the future in Taiwan.

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