AS Watson Group, established in Hong Kong in 1841, is among the world’s largest international health and beauty retailers with more than 16,000 stores in 27 markets, that also include grocers and electronics.
It is mainly active across Asia and Europe, but had been looking to expand in the Middle East and announced an exclusive franchise agreement with Al-Futtaim in 2020. Its first Dubai store opened in October that year.
The company, a member of the multinational conglomerate CK Hutchison Holdings Ltd, also owns and operates a number of food brands and restaurants, and employs more than 130,000 people worldwide.
The firm says its business purpose is “to build a stronger international network and O+O (offline plus online) platforms for customer connectivity”, and is becoming well known for its digital prowess, tech innovations and retail partnerships.
Retail brands – health and beauty
Within the UK, AS Watson operates Superdrug, Savers and the Perfume Shop.
Superdrug is its largest fascia, and a high street stalwart, with almost 800 stores across the UK and Ireland – including around 200 in-store pharmacies. Superdrug’s online activity has extended to Sweden, Finland and Denmark since late 2017.
Superdrug is the UK’s second-largest beauty and health retailer. It says its business ethos is “to provide the very best in everyday accessible health and beauty, bringing innovation and the latest styles and trends to the high street at fantastic prices”. For more on this retailer, please see Superdrug’s profile.
Its secondary brand is Savers – established in 1998 to provide “the most competitively priced health and beauty products on the high street” – with more than 500 stores throughout England, North Ireland, Scotland and Wales. For more on this retailer, please see Savers’ profile.
The Perfume Shop, famed for its proposition of designer fragrances at affordable prices, has a network of over 215 stores nationwide. And it is also renowned for its customisable gifting, both in store and online, which includes engraving, ribbon printing and personalised wrapping paper.
In the BeNeLux area of Europe, perfumery is covered by the ICI Paris XL fascia, founded in 1968 with just one store in Brussels, but which now covers 290 stores and three web shops.
The Watsons fascia operates about 8,000 stores and more than 1,500 pharmacies in 15 Asian and European markets, including Mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macau, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, Turkey, Ukraine, Russia and UAE.
Kruidvat is a market-leading drugstore in the Netherlands and Belgium. Established in 1975, it now has about 1,200 stores across the two territories. Its secondary fascia in the Netherlands is Trekpleister, with just under 200 neighbourhood drugstores.
Across Germany, Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Albania and Kosovo there are more than 4,200 Rossmann stores, and within the Baltic states of Latvia and Lithuania, Drogas is a well established cosmetic retailer with 140 outlets.
Many of the health and beauty fascias also stock fashion accessories, homeware, toys and general merchandise.
Retail brands – grocery and home
PARKnSHOP is Hong Kong’s leading supermarket chain, with around 260 outlets in Hong Kong and Macau.
Also in Hong Kong but catering to cosmopolitan consumers are two specialist food offers – Taste and Great. Taste has a 10-store estate and is billed as ‘more than just a supermarket’. This foodhall concept spans fresh and ready-to-eat food, an in-store bakery, imported specialist items, a wine cellar, household goods and gifts, and fashion and luxury accessories. Great is an international “gourmet wonderland”. With just one outlet, in the basement of Pacific Place, it offers 36,000 sq ft of products and cooking and dining ware, divided into three zones – take-away, fresh-take-home and FMCG.
Watson’s Wine offers customers the largest range of vintages in Hong Kong by sourcing directly from over 20 countries and importing 12,000 different wines. Most stores have a ‘fine wine room’ and some include a wine bar. The retailer also offers a secure and climate-controlled storage service to customers.
Su-Pa-De-Pa, a concept destination store in HK, is a merger of supermarket and department store and offers grocery alongside departments “to cater for all customers’ daily needs: food, clothing, living and entertainment”.
Fortress is AS Watson’s standalone electronics fascia in HK, with more than 70 outlets, and is also probably the group’s most advanced O+O retail model, providing a comprehensive range of new technology for smart living. Stores are split into zones, including TechLife, Premium Living, Home Auto, GameZ, Beauty Lab and 3HK@Fortress for mobile communication service. It also offers after sales through its Pro-Team, consultation appointments and experience workshops.