Staff Reporters
Feb 12, 2016

Sasa Hong Kong needs more than stores

BRAND HEALTH CHECK: With high-volume sales on the out, Sasa has to turn itself into more than a bargain brand.

Brand cultivation is a must for Sasa to last
Brand cultivation is a must for Sasa to last

Like many stores in Hong Kong, Sasa has been hit hard by the decline in the number of mainland Chinese tourists. 

The beauty outlet chain store reported a 10.6-per cent drop in sales in the first half of 2015, with an accompanying 55-per cent plunge in profit. 

To address this issue, the retailer designed and launched new store concepts and planned to focus more on the international ecommerce. 

But these business tactics may not be enough to save a brand known primarily for deep discounting — a niche challenged by rival discount beauty outlet Bonjour and online cosmetics retailer, Strawberrynet.

 Is it time for Sasa to appeal to less-transient shoppers and start looking to cultivate brand loyalty?

DIAGNOSIS 1
Jacqueline Alexis Thng
Partner
Prophet Hong Kong

When Sasa rebranded itself, the new store concepts were mostly limited to overhaul of its signages and graphics, and some basic renovations — the overall store’s brand experience didn’t change much. It’s still an overcrowded (with products), narrow-aisle discount store. Shopping is a hassle and almost stressful experience.

If one were to remove Sasa’s graphics, it was exactly the same as Bonjour. The two brands look and feel exactly the same. The choice between the two becomes location.

With dwindling sales, especially from the Chinese tourists, the brand will inevitably need to appeal to the locals and other tourists. But how? First, the store concept needs to be thoroughly rebooted. Discount stores need not look messy, cramped and yes, cheap.
Sasa should take a leaf out of the duty-free shops in Singapore’s Changi and Hong Kong’s Chek Lap Kok airports or even fast-fashion companies like Uniqlo and H&M. Good value can still offer a unique and pleasurable experiences.

It’s time for Sasa to invest in a real rebranding via a thought-out store experience and better-trained staff, like Apple’s Genius Bar, able to give expert beauty advice, which will lead to brand affinity and more sales. Lastly, a great ecommerce site that extends the same brand experience is a necessity in this digital age.

DIAGNOSIS 2
Adrian Li
Strategy director
Brand Union

At a time when the industry is discounting, Sasa cannot simply rely on low prices or they risk losing customers to stores pricing each other out.

Sasa’s brand challenge is to solve the question of “why should people care about Sasa?” The answer will give customers an emotional reason to shop — beyond the price war and weak market.

To become a brand that people care about, Sasa should consider the following ideas:

1) Define a point of focus like Ikea that promises ‘a better everyday life’ or Kellogg’s that believes in ‘the power of breakfast’. Sasa can become more compelling by focusing on a singular idea. The idea must have significant meaning to their customers and give purpose to everything Sasa does.

2) Create a brand personality. In developing new store concepts, Sasa can achieve rewarding experiences that build attachment by asking themselves “what kind of Sasa do customers need?” and “if Sasa was a person, what should he or she be like?”

3) Have a point of view. The Asian view of beauty has rarely been explored by the brands that market to it. My female colleagues want Sasa that has thought about them and their personal beauty rituals. It’s a cruicial conversation Sasa can drive. Its ‘Beautiversity’ platform can be the place to start.

 

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