When Tsann Kuen Group (
Instead, its China business has so far seen heavy losses and its chairman, Wu Tsann-kuen (
"The [China] business has caused us a loss of US$31 million so far, which ate into our net profit," said the group's chief accounting officer Jack Huang (
Tsann Kuen opened more than 50 outlets across China, beginning last year. But the swelling losses have forced the company to trim back to just 31 outlets, mainly in the prosperous eastern and southern coastal areas of China.
In the first three quarters of this year, the company saw a combined net profit of US$3.02 million, which is significantly down from US$17 million a year ago, while revenue grew to US$560 million from US$310 million year-on-year, the company said last month.
Tsann Kuen, established in 1978, started out as a small home appliance maker. Its lucrative manufacturing business is expected to create US$600 million in total revenue this year and deliver 66 million units of home appliances, including coffee makers, grills and irons, to almost 90 percent of home appliance brands worldwide, such as Starbucks, Royal Philips Electronics, and General Electronic Co.
The company broke into Taiwan's home appliance and electronics retailing market in 1991 and has since expanded into the sector's dominant player with 153 outlets nationwide. In the first three quarters of this year its pre-tax income was NT$1.1 billion, with earnings per share of NT$5.06, on revenue of NT$22.89 billion.
"But it just didn't work out the way we thought," said Huang Fu-shan (
The fast expansion tactics also led to soaring costs for the retail in rental, personnel and inventory, he added.
The company, for instance, intended to set a new standard by using clean and purely yellow-colored outer walls and interior designs hoping it would help differentiate the chain from rivals in China in order to attract a growing number of China's wealthy customers, Huang Fu-shan said.
But they soon discovered that China's retail environment is very different, and they replaced their stores' design with colorful, large advertisements of various product brands to grab consumers' attention while securing extra advertising income from those vendors.
"Unlike Taiwan, the competition among product brands in China is far sharper than that among retailers," Huang Fu-shan said. He noted that Chinese electronics retailers are more like landlords that lease space to product vendors who not only bear all the costs including furnishing, personnel and inventory but pay rebates to retailers on monthly, quarterly, or even yearly basis.
In Taiwan, Tsann Kuen's salesclerks usually don't want to bother shoppers who are browsing in their stores. But customers in China have different shopping behavior, and actually feel insulted that no clerks come up to help them. Therefore they have introduced "shopping guides" in their China outlets, which have gotten a positive response from customers, Huang said.