Fortnum & Mason reports bumper year despite Hong Kong protests


Upmarket department store Fortnum & Mason has reported another year of bumper sales and profits but said its new Hong Kong store had been hit by the pro-democracy protests.

Its chief executive Ewan Venters said sales in the territory were running at only half the level expected since it opened its doors last week but he was optimistic that trade would improve with its restaurant – with its view of Hong Kong harbour – receiving 4,000 bookings for December. It is the first standalone Fortnum & Mason shop outside the UK.

“Hong Kong is going to bounce back and be a strong business for us,” said Venters, who reported shoppers spending up to HK$7,000 (£694) on gourmet treats such as smoked salmon and caviar. Asked about the wisdom of opening in the troubled city, he said: “It’s not our place to get overly political. We are an English brand that goes out into the world to sell tea, biscuits and jam.”

The retailer, which was founded in 1707 by William Fortnum, a royal footman, and his landlord Hugh Mason, also has concessions in Lane Crawford department stores in Hong Kong as well as Isetan Mitsukoshi in Japan and Shinsegae in South Korea. It is best known for its flagship store on Piccadilly in central London.

Profits at the department store, which is owned by the Weston family – who also control furniture chain Heals and Primark owner Associated British Foods – rose 26% to £12m in the year to July 2019. Total sales increased 12% to £138m. The group’s flagship shop on London’s Piccadilly increased sales by 6% during the year while online sales were up 13%.

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In recent years the retailer has benefited from Britons drinking more upmarket tea, and that trend has continued with tea sales up 11% buoyed by unusual flavours such as chocolate violet and pistachio and clotted cream. Tea sales were also boosted by new products such as sparkling tea, made from a blend of black, white and green teas, and sold as an alternative to alcohol.



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