Day 1 & 2: May 10-11, 2013 – Kristina Chen
Although I have been to Taiwan several times to visit my relatives, I have never been to Mainland China. I will be accompanying other students on the University of Florida China Retail Study Tour where we will visit Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Yi Wu, and Beijing in three weeks. We will be taking tours of several companies including Outback Steakhouse, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Wal-Mart, Perry Ellis, and many more. In addition, we will visit several cultural sites to embrace the Asian culture. I am most looking forward to the food, beautiful tourist attractions, company visits, networking opportunities, shopping and the overall cultural experience. Until then, I will continue to pack my luggage until the last moment since I still haven’t finished packing and my flight leaves bright and early at 6:30am.
After one full day of traveling, we have finally arrived to the Hong Kong Airport. Peter Long, our tour guide, picked us up from the airport and we headed to the hotel. Along the way, Peter gave us some important information about China including safety, business etiquette, cultural dos and don’ts, and the itinerary for the next 3 weeks. After checking in to the Metropark Hotel, it is now 11:00pm. Tomorrow will be a free day in Hong Kong; I look forward to seeing all that Hong Kong has to offer! I hope to visit the main cultural attractions and experience the fast-paced urban city life.
Day 3: May 12, 2013 – Daniel Milstein
Today was terrific—it was great to have time to walk around and explore Hong Kong. It is truly an amazing city, and as it is our first experience with life in China, I think I walked around a good part of the day with my mouth wide open just taking everything in, from the masses of people to the office buildings and the stores, at least figuratively. As I was out exploring with Sean, Wes, and Austin, it occurred to me that this was the first time I would be traveling in a completely foreign place for an extended period of time as a real tourist, a real foreigner, where I look different from everyone else and don’t speak the same language. It was an exciting thought, and I was ready for the challenge.
Our entire group met up for the first time at the buffet breakfast included with our hotel. It was great to see everyone together for the first time since our class ended two weeks earlier. We all introduced ourselves to Julie, a franchise broker that will be traveling with us for the next two weeks. As a group, we followed Peter to the Metro station, which was only a two-minute walk from our hotel. We took the Metro from Kowloon to the downtown financial area of Hong Kong Island. As we walked by some of the main financial buildings, we noted not only how modern everything was (indeed, a lot had been recently built in the last 15 years since Britain returned Hong Kong to China in 1997) but also how clean and well-kept the entire city was.
After taking the steep tram ride up to Victoria Peak, a high mountaintop with a great view of the Hong Kong skyline, we explored the indoor and outdoor shopping mall and set out to find a good observation point. By then it was early afternoon, and we broke off into groups to explore Hong Kong on our own. I was with Wes, Austin, and Sean, and with only a map to guide us, we set off to walk and see the city.
We ended up in an area known as SoHo and found a contemporary style restaurant for lunch. As we continued to explore, it became more and more apparent that Hong Kong was a huge melting pot of many different nationalities and influences that contributed to its present culture, including British/European, American, and Chinese, evident in both the languages and daily life, such as driving on the left side of the road. In this way, Hong Kong was a great transition into China that allowed us to ease into the Chinese culture while still having a great deal of Westerners and other foreigners that lived there in addition to Western food and the English language. Over the course of the day, we went into a massive shopping mall that had at least 12 floors, walked through streets that were so packed they must have had thousands of people on them, passed by some sort of parade, were passed many locals trying to sell massages, and successfully put our bargaining skills to use when we bought some magnets and paintings at the Ladies Market. It is so true that it is impossible to imagine what a new place is really like without seeing and experiencing it for yourself.
In the evening we had our first UF alumni dinner. It was really exciting to meet UF alums that live in Hong Kong and discuss what they studied and how they got to where they are now. Food wise, many of the dishes had pork in them, but Melody ordered a dish of plain noodles and some vegetables, which was very good. Some of the menu items were very interesting, especially the pig’s knuckle… After dinner, we went with some of the alums to a special area where we had the opportunity to get our fortune’s told by an authentic Chinese fortune teller for 300 Hong Kong Dollars.
Day 4: May 13, 2013 – Lauren Lundberg
Our first company visit was the JCPenny international buying office operation. We met the regional human resources manager, regional operations manager and several designers. Even though JCPenny store locations are only in the United States and Puerto Rico, they also ship to over 90 countries from online sales. JCPenny provided lunch and then we took a bus to Ocean Park for our next visit.
We met with Paul Pei, the executive director of the theme park, who actually saved the park from closing. Paul Pei spoke to our class about the importance of generating sales and revenues in business. He quotes, “nothing happens in this world till a sale is made.” Essentially, Paul Pei was able to create a rebirth of the theme park by igniting a reason for customers to visit the park again. Ocean Park conducted several photo promotions and holiday specials. After Paul Pei spoke, we were able to visit the park. I enjoyed viewing the panda center and aquarium.
Since it was such a clear day and the lighting was perfect John Parady and I went to Victoria’s Peak and were able to see the entire Hong Kong city skyline from the top. We concluded the night by taking a ferry over to Tsim Sha Tsui to view the 8 p.m. Symphony of Lights show.
Day 4: May 13, 2013 – Jennifer Sato
Our first stop was the JCPenney Purchasing Corporation in Kowloon Bay, on the 21st and 28th floors of the Skyline Tower. It was an absolutely gorgeous workspace. Although JCP does not have any physical stores outside of the United States and Puerto Rico, the company has many offices, like the one in Hong Kong, known as International Buying Offices. Basically, this office, as well as the other international offices in Shanghai, Taiwan, South Korea, and India, is the go between for the home offices in Dallas and the manufacturers. JCP does their own sourcing, which is different from many of their competitors, who outsource the work to a Chinese representative company. Two of the managers, Winnie and Conrad, met us and gave us a tour of their offices. We were able to walk through the area where designers work on new apparel, as well as the open-layout office space where the different teams (legal, color, fabric, non-apparel, finance, etc.) work. After, they gave a presentation on the merchandising aspect of their role for JCP, and how they provide the company with cost effective production from the beginning of the product cycle to the time the product reaches a store in the United States. It was very eye opening to think about all of the steps necessary to create every piece of clothing that we see in stores. We also had a presentation by the technical design team – the people who examine samples of clothes produced by the manufacturer and make suggestions to create the perfect garment. The team brought in before and after versions of different pieces of apparel, and showed us how they examined the seams, the amount of material, and all of the hems to make sure that they were even. A seam that lays diagonal along the side wasn’t noticeable to me, but the TD Team’s job is to make sure that there are going to be no issues with the product when you buy it.
After lunch at the JCP office, we headed to Ocean Park, one of Hong Kong’s theme parks. In 2000, Ocean Park had suffered from 4 straight years of losses, and Paul Pei, a new executive director of sales and marketing was brought in to help change he organization. He was very successful in his job, and today, more the 7.8 million people visit Ocean Park annually. Paul spoke to us about his philosophy of “Leadership of Change”, and how he was able to set goals and implement a successful strategy into Ocean Park. He was a wonderful speaker – it reminded me a lot of Florida Leadership Academy presenters. After he spoke, we were able to visit the park, which was awesome. It is a combination of a zoo and theme park, complete with pandas.
Day 4: May 13, 2013 – Sean Wilson:
We started off at J.C. Penny visiting their sourcing office in Hong Kong. The presentation was really interesting because the second half of it focused on the technical design team in Hong Kong. The team demonstrated how they fix mistakes in the clothing and used mannequins to display the clothing items on. In the afternoon, we visited Ocean Park.
The presentation at Ocean Park was astounding, simply because the speaker talked about the simplicity that needs to be utilized in the business strategy for failing businesses. When he came to Ocean Park, they were suffering major losses due to the opening of the new Disney Park in Hong Kong. The solution that he found was to simply ask the customers what they wanted out of the park, and to give them the experience that they desired. The overall simplicity in the strategy was intriguing to me and allowed me to view some aspects of business in a way I had not thought of before.
Day 5: May 14, 2013 – Kristina Chen
We checked out of the hotel in Hong Kong in the morning and then we visited Dick’s Sporting Goods. Andrew Polins, VP of Operations, spoke about global sourcing, strategies, and challenges in China. Some of the strategic considerations are price, shipping lead times, supplier suitability, duty rates, trade agreements, status of labor, and global trends. Some of China’s challenges are the potential “New Chinas” which include Bangladesh and Vietnam and the cost of cheap labor. Dick’s is making a big push towards localization and focusing on private brands. Afterwards, we had a delicious lunch at Outback Steakhouse. Then, we went to our second company visit, Fossil. We learned about cultural differences from our guest speaker Ken; for instance Japanese people say “thank you for coming to Fossil”, whereas Americans say, “welcome to fossil”. We learned that Fossil has low brand awareness in Hong Kong; it is an American lifestyle brand that is casual, authentic vintage, classic, and fun. However, Chinese people enjoy luxury, well-known brands, and expensive products. Fossil’s marketing priorities are to increase their brand awareness in Asia, communicate effectively, launch with impact, and build online presence. Fossil’s biggest challenge is to understand “vintage” in Asia. After the Fossil visit, we headed to Shenzhen by bus and finally arrived at the beautiful Shangri-La Hotel.
Day 5: May 14, 2013 – Carolina Cuello
We visited the global sourcing office of Dick’s Sporting Goods. Their responsibility is to make sure products get to the freight forwarder. This office has five different departments. The office we visited is responsible for private brands that make up 18% of the company. They are truly developing brands in spaces where they know they will do well. Dick’s purchased all top Flight, Mac’s Fly, and Filed & Stream. Dick’s current goal is to buy brands with recognition and making them theirs. Dick’s is considering moving it’s manufacturing to developing countries since China’s economy will be comparable with the US by 2015. It was so interesting to hear about how that office monitors all the production and shipping that takes place in Asia.
At our next company visit, Fossil, it was interesting to learn about visual merchandising. I’ve always admired windows in stores, like the Saks on Fifth Ave in New York! I never realized how much work went into designing the lay out of the stores.
We transferred to Shenzhen by bus today. I’m excited to leave Hong Kong and see the rest of China.
Day 5: May 14, 2013 – Austin English:
Both meetings today were great, but the best part of the day was leaving Hong Kong and entering into China. I was so excited cross the border and enter the actual country. The bus transfer terminal reminded me of the customs area of an airport, and after the agent checked our visas and we put our bags through security, we exited through the other side of the building into main land China. We boarded a different bus and were on our way. When we were approaching Shenzhen, I immediately recognized the Kingkey 100 building, which houses the St. Regis Shenzhen on the top 25 floors. It is the tallest building in Shenzhen at 442 meters and the 9th tallest building in the world.