19 Jan 2016
With more than 40 years in business, Tse Sui Luen Jewellery (International) Ltd – better known as TSL – is among Hong Kong’s leading jewellery brands. Founded in 1971 by Hong Kong businessman Tse Sui Luen, the listed company has about 300 stores in Greater China and a handful in Southeast Asia, where it’s now looking to expand further. TSL Deputy Chair and CEO Tommy Tse explains why the family-run business joined the Hong Kong Trade Development Council’s (HKTDC) recent “In Style • Hong Kong” promotion in Jakarta last September.
When did TSL Jewellery start expanding its markets outside Hong Kong?
We started about 20 years ago with Malaysia as well as Taiwan. Taiwan was even earlier, but the Taiwan market is rather difficult and not a very big market for us, so we have since closed those operations, though I cannot preclude the opportunity to go back in a different format. In Malaysia, we have been in operation for 20 years in Kuala Lumpur and Penang.
Why did you take part in the “In Style • Hong Kong” promotion in Jakarta?
I think the Indonesian market gives us a very good opportunity, as we have learned that the population and buying power of the Indonesians are quite strong. We have friends in the jewellery industry doing exports, and they have mentioned that they have gained some inroads into the Indonesian market.
So this is the reason why we teamed up with the HKTDC. They introduced the “In Style • Hong Kong” fair to us and we took this opportunity to come here – for the first time myself – to understand what the market is like, to do some market surveys, to meet customers and to learn about tastes in jewellery. I think we are optimistic, having spent two days meeting some of the clients and doing some business matching in Jakarta.
Whether it is opening our own shop or a franchise or just wholesale, or getting an agent to sell our jewellery – it is something that we should consider. We have not decided what to do, but it is going to be a step-by-step process. It will take some time; it’s not going to be a quick fix, but in a depressed market like Hong Kong currently, it is a good opportunity to look outside Hong Kong and outside of China too.
What are the advantages of selling a Hong Kong brand in Indonesia?
First of all, there is a very big Chinese market [in Indonesia] so, as we are a Hong Kong brand, I think that makes us likely to be favoured. And we may be getting much closer to their tastes, so this may be an advantage to us over local brands.
We are already sizeable, a mid-size jewellery company, so in terms of buying, in terms of the cost effectiveness, I think this is something that we can offer. And this will give us a competitive edge on costs as well as in design.
Lastly, I think it helps us to get into the market if we are flexible in how we invest – maybe a little bit of manufacturing capability here locally – so it may be an opportunity for us to cut down on import duty. I think these things will help us get into the market, and this is the direction I think we should explore.
I think Hong Kong is a gateway to many different cultures – and that has been a gateway to different business relationships, to many partners around the world. These things help Hong Kong adapt to different styles. So I think bringing a foreign lifestyle into Indonesia could be interesting.
Why is Indonesia a good market to explore?
One of the interesting things about the Indonesian market is its purchasing power. I think that there is a lot of wealth untapped in this country. Indonesia is a big country; there are many cities that are underdeveloped and there are cities that are already well-developed.
With higher spending power, I think we would tailor our jewellery to the more upmarket consumers – designing one-of-a-kind pieces and more handmade products. I think that would draw much more appreciation instead of competing in the mass market.
So the purchasing power will dictate what we can. We are not talking about opening 20, 30, 50 shops in Indonesia. But we want to enter the cream of the market; people who would appreciate what real jewellery really is. This is the strength of TSL.
Tse Sui Luen Jewellery (International) Ltd