Thu, Jan 18, 2007 - Page 12 News List

President, UK retailer start venture

A TASTE OF BRITAIN The company inked a venture with Marks & Spencer and will use the opening of the nation's biggest shopping mall to launch the operation

By Amber Chung and Jackie Lin  /  STAFF REPORTERS

President Chain Store Corp (統一超商), operator of 7-Eleven, the nation's largest convenience store chain, said it had inked a pact with Marks & Spencer Group Plc to form a new joint venture. It plans to open stores of the British brand soon.

"We have formed a joint venture with Marks & Spencer," President Chain president Hsu Chung-jen (徐重仁) said yesterday.

"Marks & Spencer is the No.1 brand in the UK and that was very attractive to President Chain," Hsu said, adding that the British retailer offers quality brand name products at reasonable prices, which should be appealing to the nation's shoppers.

The two parties signed an agreement last month to form the venture, whose value is less than NT$1 billion (US$30.5 million). The British vendor controls 60 percent of the venture, while President Chain takes the remainder, said Lillian Lin (林立莉), public relations manager at President Chain.

The venture's first outlet is scheduled to open its doors in May. It will be located in the Dream Mall (夢時代購物中心), in which parent company Uni-President Group (統一集團) is an investor.

The mall is scheduled to open at the end of March in Kaohsiung, Lin said.

The second store will open in Taipei in the second half of this year, she added.

Unlike other retailers, Marks & Spencer only sells its own-brand garments, food and household goods at its stores worldwide.

Lin said the companies were still studying the kinds of product lines that would attract the nation's shoppers. The venture will sell clothes but was undecided on selling food products.

President Chain, among the nation's principal retailers, sells products ranging from food and beverages to household goods by companies including Starbucks, Mister Donut, Cold Stone and Muji.

The Dream Mall will become the nation's largest shopping center, occupying a space of 121,000 pings (400,000m2) -- twice the size of Taipei's Core Pacific City Mall (京華城).

With 90 percent of the mall's available space already leased, the multi-functional shopping complex is expected to hold a pre-opening in late March before holding a grand opening on May 12, public relations official Hammer Tang (唐晞宇) said yesterday.

Nine stories-high with three basement levels, the mall will feature a small rooftop Ferris wheel, as well as department stores, hypermarkets, theme parks, gyms, a Cinemark cinema (喜滿客) and an Eslite Bookstore and offer a wide variety of services.

The mall aims to attract 12 million customers a year and hopes to rake in NT$14.4 billion (NT$440 million) in sales during the first year, said Yeh Chih-chung (葉致中), president of the Tung Li Development Co (統立開發), which is in charge of the mall's management and operations.

After the mall begins operations, the company will focus on building the second phase of the project, a five-star hotel on a 8,000-ping piece of land next to the shopping center, Yeh said.

The NT$30 billion mall is a mega-investment project by the Uni-President Group, with its subsidiaries Uni-President Enterprises Corp (統一企業), the nation's largest food conglomerate, controlling 40.5 percent, President International Development Corp (統一國際開發) controlling 40.5 percent and President Chain controlling the remaining 19 percent.

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