A.S. Watson, a health and beauty retailer operating in mainland China and elsewhere in Asia, and in Western and Eastern Europe, last week announced plans to open more than 1,300 new stores globally.
Founded in Hong Kong in 1841 as a local drug dispensary, the company now operates 12 retail brands, the largest of which is Watsons, and already runs more than 14,300 stores in its 24 markets, according to a press release. The move marks the third straight year of similar expansion, the company said.
The company has also expanded online, revamping its digital operations in 2010, according to the release.
A.S. Watson says its new brick-and-mortar plan entails opening a new store every seven hours. But Group Chief Operating Officer Malina Ngai said in a statement last week that, "growth in terms of store numbers is just part of the picture."
The company runs several brands that have built customer trust where it operates, including Kruidvat (with 1,000 stores in Netherlands and Belgium), Superdrug (800 stores in the U.K. and Ireland) and ParknShop (340 supermarkets in Hong Kong, Macau and Mainland China). But the largest is Watsons, which operates 6,600 stores in 12 Asian and European countries and last week opened its first store in Russia.
With 130 million members in their loyalty program globally, and with a recorded revenue increase of 6% in its core health and beauty business, the company says it employs analytics, surveys, digital analysis and "social listening" to communicate with customers and act on their views and feedback. The company also uses state-of-the-art mobile communications tools in house.
"Digital transformation in organizations so often focuses on technology investment and new digital applications, and ignores the human touch," Ngai also said. "When 70% of your colleagues are Generation Y and Z it's vital to talk to them in the right way, to enable them to service today's customers."
A.S. Watson is part of the stable of multinational conglomerate CK Hutchison Holdings Limited, which has five core businesses: ports and related services, retail, infrastructure, energy and telecommunications, in more than 50 countries. Last year the banner announced a $70 million investment to build big data capabilities to enhance its customers' experiences and business efficiencies, in partnership with Toronto-based retail platform Rubikloud.